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Los Angeles Votes to Scale Back Its Marijuana Merchants

A budtender pours marijuana from a jar at Perennial Holistic Wellness Center medical marijuana dispensary on July 25, 2012 in Los Angeles
A budtender pours marijuana from a jar at Perennial Holistic Wellness Center medical marijuana dispensary on July 25, 2012 in Los AngelesPhotograph by David McNew/Getty Images

Angelenos may like their pot, but yesterday’s election showed they have their limits. A large majority voted to regulate and tax medical marijuana dispensaries across the country’s second-largest city.

In 1996, California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana, and Los Angeles has long struggled with how to regulate the pot dispensaries that eventually sprouted up all over the city. Although the businesses were slow to start, 186 dispensaries were in operation by 2007, when the L.A. City Council, in an attempt to reign in the growth, issued a moratorium on new stores. A loophole in the law failed to stop the dispensary explosion, and by 2009 as many as 600 stores criss-crossed the city in neighborhoods both rich and poor. That number now tops 1,000, according to L.A. Weekly, forming a part of what my colleague Sheelah Kolhatkar described as the “aboveground-underground market” for marijuana in the state.