Don't Miss Out

Subscribe to OCA's News & Alerts.

How Los Angeles Became the "Wild West" of Medical Marijuana

On a warm, bright winter day in January, I spent a few hours driving around two neighborhoods in Los Angeles, looking at marijuana stores.

You know, marijuana stores. Where you (well, not necessarily you) can walk in and, if you can prove a doctor has recommended marijuana to you for relief of an ailment, walk out with a brown bag full of buds, pot brownies, or cannabis candy bars. Los Angeles has more than 500 of these stores. My companions on the drives were two citizen activists who didn't like seeing so many marijuana shops and who regularly let the Los Angeles City Council know of their unhappiness.

Michael Larsen, a 43-year-old family man, is public safety director for the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council. He doesn't like to discuss his day job in the press, saying it has drawn too many hostile medical marijuana supporters to his work-related websites in the past.

Eagle Rock, a neighborhood in northeast Los Angeles, is visibly aging but remains dignified and distinct, with commercial areas occupied mostly by low-slung, pale old buildings housing storefront doctor's offices, service businesses such as beauty salons and tax preparers, and independent restaurants and boutiques rather than chain stores. As we cruise a mile or so up and down Eagle Rock, York, and Colorado boulevards, Larsen points out more than 10 pot dispensaries. "Eagle Rock is about being a small community with a small-town feel, and we want to retain that," he says.