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Our Focus programme brings you exclusive reports from around the world. From Monday to Friday at 7.45 am Paris time.

Latest update : 2009-11-05

Los Angeles, a marijuana smokers' heaven

With close to 1000 dispensaries offering diverse strains of medical marijuana, and just as many doctors willing to hand out prescriptions for the drug, Los Angeles has quickly become a marijuana smoker's heaven.

President Obama recently asked federal agents not to waste their time, nor taxpayers' money, on prosecuting marijuana dispensaries and their patients who are in compliance with their state's laws.

In 1996, California approved the “Compassionate Act”, legalising the use of medical marijuana to treat certain ailments, such as insomnia, nausea, depression, arthritis, or other long term illnesses. It also allows for patients to grow a certain quantity of their own pot, but not to sale for profit.

Since then, over the past ten years, California has become the largest pot grower in the Western world. And hundreds of dispensaries opened up across the State to deliver the drug to patients. In LA for instance, the Los Angeles Times has counted up to 1000 dispensaries - five times the number of coffee shops in Amsterdam.

Two years ago the city tried to impose a moratorium in order to halt this phenomenon, but lawyers found a loophole and hundreds of new dispensaries jumped the band wagon.

Strapped for cash, and in the face of one its worst financial crises, the city is also caught up in a legal quagmire over medical marijuana. But city officials refuse to give up, and they say they’re working on a new ordinance which should help them shut many of the new dispensaries outlets.

By Gallagher Fenwick

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