Los Angeles tries to slow growth of medical marijuana dispensaries

LOS ANGELES — The medicinal marijuana flow is coming to an end in the palm-shaded "vapor room" of the Pure Life Alternative Wellness Center.

Los Angeles' restrictive new ordinance to stem the spread of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city will ban on-site pot consumption. It may force the closure of as many as 800 outlets.

Over the past three years, this sprawling metropolis has fostered the wildest of markets for legal sales of marijuana for medical use. City leaders are trying now to rein it in.

Last month, the City Council passed an ordinance that caps the number of marijuana dispensaries at 70 while exempting another 100 pot clubs that were in business as of 2007. Dispensary owners have responded with threats of lawsuits and a possible November ballot fight to overturn the rules.

Los Angeles' battle to govern its medical marijuana industry offers cautionary lessons for other California cities grappling, in widely conflicting ways, with burgeoning pot sales and piqued legal arguments over the hazy rules of the trade.

Even some medical marijuana advocates say Los Angeles lost control of its neighborhoods when dispensaries started flowering in the city in 2006. A feeble moratorium, passed in 2007 to stop new pot clubs from coming in, failed to slow the spread.

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