Flickr photo Eric RichardsonLA councilman Jose Huizar
With medical marijuana delivery services flourishing throughout Los Angeles - and the rest of the state - a city council member is moving forward with an emergency ban on pot couriers.
In a motion filed yesterday, Councilman Jose Huizar asked that the City Attorney to prepare an amendment "on an emergency basis," to clarify the city’s new medical marijuana ordinance, which went into effect on Monday.
Under the ordinance, city officials have ordered the immediate closing of 439 storefront medical marijuana dispensaries. But the ordinance does not explicit mention delivery services.
"The City has received dozens of complaints regarding this new ruse that has arisen in an attempt to circumvent City and state regulations,” Huizar said in his motion. (Full document below.)
The motion is asking that the Los Angeles city attorney’s office prepare an amendment that would clarify the new ordinance and explicitly ban all pot-delivery services, except in extremely limited circumstances.
Frank Mateljan, a spokesman for the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office, said "the City Attorney's Office is waiting for further direction from our clients (the City Council) and will move accordingly to address any legal issues that are raised."
Huizar’s motion follows a report by California Watch this week that disclosed a little-known industry of pot delivery services is circumventing bans on storefront dispensaries and bringing medical marijuana directly to people’s homes, offices and more unconventional locations across the state.
The story also disclosed that in the face of the crackdown on storefront dispensaries in Los Angeles, some dispensaries have already closed their storefronts and rebranded themselves as delivery services.
Kris Hermes, a spokesman for Americans for Safe Access, has said that if delivery services are operating as collectives or cooperatives they are protected under state law. He said that all members must be qualified patients or caregivers, the operator must verify each patient’s status under legal guidelines and the delivery services must organize as nonprofits.
Huizar contended in his motion that although the city’s new ordinance does not specifically mention delivery services, they are not legal under state law and there is no authority for them to operate under the medical marijuana ordinance.
Huizar said in his motion:
Transportation of medical marijuana is still a crime, with no medical marijuana defense, except where the transport of medical marijuana is by a qualified patient for his or her personal medical use or by a primary caregiver. ... The definition of a primary caregiver is very narrow and the delivery services that are not appearing in the City and on the Internet will not likely meet that definition.
The exact number of delivery services operating in California is unclear, since the state does not keep a registry of medical marijuana distributors or outlets. In April, 758 services advertised direct delivery of marijuana to patients on Weedmaps.com, a commercial listing service.
Those numbers have nearly tripled 18 months and grown by 39 percent since February, as more counties and cities began regulating storefront dispensaries or banning them outright.
Huizar said in a statement today:
We need to make sure the profiteers who used the City’s Interim Control Ordinance as a loophole are not attempting to use medical marijuana delivery services to once again avoid coming under the City’s jurisdiction. While I strongly support the spirit of the Compassionate Use Act we have an obligation to maintain control of how medical marijuana is distributed in the City of Los Angeles. We are just gaining control of what was an out-of-control situation. We need clarification regarding mobile medical marijuana operations to make sure we do not take a step back.