LOS ANGELES – Inside LAPD headquarters this afternoon, the official press conference on the state of adult use sales of cannabis in Los Angeles was for mainstream media only. Outside, in the courtyard, a few dozen people sat huddled around cell phones, listening intently to a Facebook Live feed of the presser, waiting for the magic words that would make them feel confident enough to open their shops back up for business. They were the owner/operators of Los Angeles medical cannabis cooperatives, worried that the LAPD might decide to cite their shops for being open after January 1, and in doing so jeopardize their applications to enter the new regulated marketplace.
Their worst fears were allayed midway through the 30-minute press conference, when LAPD Assistant Chief Michel Moore – who represented the city along with Cat Packer, head of its Department of Cannabis Regulations (DCR) – uttered the magic words in response to a question about the state of limited liability for existing Prop D dispensaries.
“Let me answer that question,” he said, stepping to the mic to address a subject he knew was coming. “Today, the Prop D compliant business that are selling marijuana to those individuals who have a doctor’s recommendation, commonly referred to as medicinal marijuana, are continuing to operate and the department is not taking enforcement action on the basis of that operation alone,” he said. “The department has and will continue to draw its attention to cannabis sales and retail operations and cultivations that are sources of significant criminal activity. What does that mean? We have found some of these locations that have been operated by individuals who are ex-cons, or felons, if you will, that have been hot-spots for gang activity or crimes of violence. Those are the activities… that we draw our attention to.”
However, Chief Moore also took care to note the continuing offer of limited immunity comes with new caveats. “Going forward… today… and until the first license is issued by the DCR,” he added, “Prop D compliant [businesses] are, technically, as I understand it, in violation of state law. Should the [state] cannabis bureau call the department and ask us to take enforcement actions, we would look at the good-faith efforts of the city, as well as of these operators, and measure whether it is a proper use of our resources to take enforcement actions against that operator.
“So, while we can’t offer immunity or offer a free pass,” he continued, “what we are assuring the existing Prop D businesses is that their reliance upon doctor’s recommendations for the use of medical marijuana… nothing has changed in regard to that as of today, and I don’t expect it to.”
Moore also said the LAPD will be assisting the city’s new cannabis department in the application process, but it was his assurance that the collective model will be allowed to continue as the application process unfolds that made the greatest impact today.
After the press conference, members of the mainstream media brought their cameras down into the courtyard and spoke with the people who had been the subject of the press conference. Their questions failed to reflect an appreciation of what had just occurred, and why these retailers, as relieved as they were, felt pulled in a million directions by the city. Still, the consensus among the shop owners who had made the trek downtown was that it was time to reopen their doors for their patients, and continue preparing for adult use.
As far as how long it will take for the city to process the first wave of pre-ICO priority placement applications, Packer said she expected “some operators to have their temporary approvals by next Monday.” But she also said that “most businesses who submit quality applications should expect their temporary approvals in a few weeks.”