After the Los Angeles City Council voted to ban medical marijuana dispensaries last month, the city has been moving to shut down thousands of businesses where they believe such shops are operating. City officials warn that unless the dispensaries close their doors by next week, they’ll face steep fines for every day they remain open.
But medical marijuana proponents are pushing back, attempting to collect enough signatures to force a ballot referendum that would repeal the city-wide ban. In a press conference yesterday, activists announced they believe they now have 50,000 signatures, which will qualify the issue for referendum. They emphasized that this is an important step forward to ensure comprehensive medical care for the city’s residents:
Several patients held a news conference in Eagle Rock on Wednesday to emphasize what activists believe is at stake: the ability of sick people to get the medicine they need.
Michael Oliveri has muscular dystrophy and says the ban will make it more difficult for him to obtain his medical marijuana.
“I was on pain meds for about five years, and I almost died, literally, from fecal poisoning,” said Oliveri. “And ever since then, the only medication I take is medical marijuana.”
Although marijuana is prohibited under federal law, California passed a ballot initiative in 1996 to allow physicians to recommend marijuana to their patients for medical purposes. Since then, over 1,000 medical marijuana shops have sprung up across L.A., and the city council claims the sheer number of dispensaries has made them impossible to effectively regulate. However, a spokesperson for Americans For Safe Access pointed out that instead of establishing legal standards that would help provide operational guidelines, the current ban “pushes everything out of sight.”
Medical marijuana shops are also in jeopardy in other California cities. The world’s largest medical marijuana dispensary, Harborside Health Center, is under pressure from Justice Department officials to close its facilities in Oakland and San Jose.