L.A. to Shutter Hundreds of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

New rules will force hundreds of medical pot clinics to close in Los Angeles.

ByABC News
January 26, 2010, 6:49 PM

Jan. 26, 2010— -- Sour Diesel, Blue Dream and Woody Kush. They're just a few of the 40 flavors Green Oasis serves up in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Playa Vista.

No, they're not flavors of frozen yogurt, but of strains of medical marijuana. And in its Howard Hughes-era building with the creamy green walls, marijuana collective Green Oasis even offers a 1,300-square foot "vaporizing lounge," which administers the drug in a vaporous mist as an alternative to smoking. Since it opened 8 months ago, the Green Oasis has dispensed medical marijuana to an average of 300 clients per week.

But under a new ordinance passed today by the Los Angeles City Council, Green Oasis, and hundreds of other medical marijuana dispensaries in L.A. may be forced to shut down.

The new regulations, passed by a vote of 9-3, will limit the number of medical marijuana dispensaries to 70 and impose strict limits on their location and how they operate.

The council decided to allow 137 additional dispensaries which registered with the city before a September 2007, to continue operating as long as they meet the new regulations. That leaves few options that would allow Green Oasis to stay open.

"Ordinances in general are good, but I find this one to be too strict," said Brian Berens, the founder and owner of Green Oasis. "It relies too much on who came before '07, which is arbitrary."

The 18-page ordinance spells out a host of new regulations. Dispensaries may not be located next to a residential area or within a 1,000 foot radius of a school, park, library or any other dispensary. The dispensary may only stay open between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.

In addition, each marijuana collective must install Web-based closed-circuit cameras to monitor the premises and provide a uniformed security guard patrol for a two-block radius surrounding the dispensary while operating.

The council has been debating the regulations for more than four years, during which time hundreds of dispensaries have sprouted up across the region.

The city estimates there are more than 500 collectives, but some estimates go as high as 1,000. Whatever the actual number, the running joke here is there may be more pot dispensaries in Los Angeles then there are Starbucks.