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L.A. Tries to Close Marijuana Farmers Market

Los Angeles city officials have launched an effort to shut down a new medical marijuana farmers market that opened in the city earlier this month.

Greay marijuana leafThe California Heritage Market, which was organized by West Coast Collective, opened to big crowds and long lines over the Fourth of July weekend. It offered shoppers a chance to interact directly with growers and get cut-rate deals on weed.

The market garnered substantial attention in the national media, and it was considered a success – until L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer stepped in.

Feuer announced July 14 that the city has sued the West Coast Collective, saying the farmers market violates zoning rules and Proposition D, a law that sharply limits the number of legal pot dispensers in L.A. The city is asking for a temporary court order preventing the market from continuing.

City Using Proposition D to Shutter Market

Just 134 dispensaries are allowed in the city under Proposition D, which was passed by voters last year. The city attorney’s office has closed hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries that weren’t on the approved list.

“We’re fighting to stop this end-run around the will of the voters who enacted Proposition D,” Feuer said in a statement. “We allege these events also violate city land-use law and are causing a public nuisance. We will do everything we can to put a halt to them.”

The city attorney said the market, located in Boyle Heights, violates the state’s unfair competition laws and “detracts from the quality of life in the community.” He said the event caused heavy traffic and blocked access to private property.

Attorney: Organizers Follow the Law

But West Coast Collective’s lawyer, David Welch, accused Feuer of “simply making wild allegations.” The city has no evidence the collective has done anything illegal, Welch said, and it’s on the list of approved dispensaries.

And collective members may sell the cannabis they grow to other members, he said. The market was only open to registered medical marijuana patients.

“I think their action violates the will of the voters because their own list on the city attorney’s website says this organization is a permitted medical marijuana business in the City of Los Angeles,” Welch said.

Other Farmers Markets Draw Trouble

dispensary jarsFarmers markets for pot have drawn wide attention, in California and elsewhere. They’ve also run into frequent legal problems.

The first major cannabis farmers market opened in Washington State a few years ago. It was originally geared toward patients but later opened to include the recreational market as well.

That festival was driven out of its home city, Tacoma, and forced to relocate to Seattle. Since then, the Washington farmers market has seen relatively little interference from local officials, though the threat is ever-present.

About Matt Brooks

Based in San Francisco, Matt is a journalist who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than five years. He provides regular news coverage on marijuanaandthelaw.com and californiamarijuanamarket.com.

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