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Proposal to outlaw pot shops fires up LA City Council

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A loophole in the 2007 dispensary moratorium allowed for a crop of new pot shops to pop up across the city. To counter the weed-like growth of storefronts, an ordinance went into effect that limited, via a lottery, which establishments would be allowed to operate.

Now, a recommendation to oust that ordinance, and outright outlaw pot shops in Los Angeles, is burning its way through City Council. This week, the recommendation, and a counterproposal, were approved by a city council committee. 

The proposed ban would signal the end of medical marijuana dispensaries in L.A., allowing only for small groups of patients and caregivers to continue to grow their own.

Councilman and committee member Jose Huizar backs the ban with the belief that obliterating the ordinance would limit the city's liability, while Atty. Carmen Trutanich says the ordinance may be in violation of federal law. 

A ruling last year found Long Beach, which also implemented a similar shop lottery strategy, in violation of federal law for "in effect, sanctioning the distribution of drugs," reports the L.A. Times.

If voted into existence, the L.A. ban would last at least until the CA Supreme Court reviews the Long Beach case, notes the newspaper.

Medical marijuana advocates say the ban's limitations would be unfair to patients who rely on the drug, and cause difficulties for those without the time or greenthumb to grow and cultivate the plants.

A counterproposal, supported by medical marijuana advocates and backed by Councilman Bill Rosendahl, would allow the city to still dismantle most dispensaries, sparing the approximately 100 that opened before the 2007 moratorium, provided they meet a set of restrictions and regulations.

Rosendahl says an outright ban "would be totally insane and throw it right back into the back alleys," notes the Times.

The issue will be taken up by the full council after another round of committee consideration.

Lisa Brenner can be reached via Twitter @lisa_brenner