4

Los Angeles' medical-weed scene: How not to regulate dispensaries

^
Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

Colorado politicians are delving head first into the state's medical-marijuana conundrum, developing statewide regulation bills and counter bills, not to mention hammering out municipal rules city by city. That's a good thing, since the last thing we want is for any of our communities to turn out like the pot boondoggle that is Los Angeles.

L.A. Weekly, a newspaper owned by Westword's parent company, recently published a lengthy exposé on the city's medical marijuana rules -- or, more accurately, its lack thereof.

In 2007, Los Angeles City Council passed a moratorium on new pot dispensaries, so it could figure out how to regulate the businesses, 186 of which had opened in a rush before the city weighed in. But many dispensaries continued to open thanks to a municipal loophole that allowed them to set up shop if they claimed a fiscal "hardship." By the Weekly's count, more than 400 dispensaries have now opened since the moratorium. Talk about a leaky sieve.

How did this happen? Neither Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa nor city councilmembers seemed eager to take action -- and according to Weekly, many of them were deferring to an influential marijuana expert named Don Duncan, co-founder of Americans for Safe Access and owner of a pot collective in West Hollywood. Assuming Duncan was just a volunteer pot advocate, city officials let him join an internal pot-policy working group, secured him a City Hall parking space and let him edit a city council press release. But Duncan also had ties to Harborside Health Center, a powerful dispensary in Oakland, California -- a fact that Westword revealed several months ago.

As we reported in the September story "Ganjapreneurs are Cashing in on Colorado's Booming Medical Pot Business," Duncan had stopped by Denver recently to help open a potential high-end dispensary called Local Product -- and he did so as a partner in Harborside Management Consultants, a new offshoot of Harborside that branded itself the "A-Team of medical cannabis." Thanks to that info, the Los Angeles City Attorney's office says it'll be investigating Duncan.

Denver City Councilman Charlie Brown took an undercover tour of L.A.'s dispensary scene last month -- and what he saw inspired him to push for a new city ordinance regulating medical marijuana dispensaries in this city. "It's just ridiculous," he says. "We don't want to become another L.A."

Brown will be discussing his proposal at 9:15 a.m. on December 16 at council's next safety committee meeting.

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.

 

Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.