Back in June, I wrote about the explosive growth of medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles. What happened is the following: a legal loophole intended to limit the number of these storefront pot shops unintentionally led to surge in new ones. In 2007, the city, hoping to curb the further spread of new shops allowed for a “hardship exemption” for those outfits already doing business. The upshot was that in 2005 there were just four medical marijuana stores – however, by last summer 500 new applications were made by operators under the exemption status. Alarmed, the city council moved to shut the loophole down.
Rather than freezing growth, however, the move actually pushed pot entrepreneurs to quickly file applications in order to reserve their licenses (law enforcement could not shut them down while their applications were pending). Currently, there are now about 966 medical marijuana dispensaries registered in LA and the Los Angeles Times is calling this the city’s “latest retail craze.”
The paper has plotted out a map of the city’s burgeoning cottage industry that has revealed some interesting findings. For starters there are 58 applications registered on one street alone. Furthermore, although a proposed city ordinance would prohibit these growing weed shops from operating within 1,000 feet of a school, library, or park, if you look at the map, the LAT’s found tha at least 260 of those applications on file have addresses listed that would land them smack in the middle of one of these no-go areas. Apparently the review process is moving at a snail’s pace while savvy LA entrepreneurship is not.
In a city in a state with a gaping budget shortfall and some of the highest unemployment and foreclosure rates – it seems this situation is one that might give new heft to the perennially controversial debate over legalizing marijuana and its potential role as a way to generate new tax revenue…Then again it could all simply go up in smoke.
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