DEBORAH AMOS, host:

And another sign of the times: Today in Los Angeles, police are expected to begin a crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries. The city is home to hundreds of them. Concerns over their proliferation have provoked a backlash. NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO: A new city ordinance limits the number and locations of medical marijuana dispensaries allowed to operate in Los Angeles. Those that registered with the city before a 2007 moratorium may be able to remain in business. But they can't be near schools, libraries, parks or other sensitive areas. Today, L.A. police officers begin closing down 400 unregistered dispensaries now operating illegally.

Ms. ASHA GREENBERG (Assistant City Attorney, Los Angeles, California): The sky isn't going to fall down. And LAPD isn't going to go around kicking down doors, etc. Initially we're going to be doing information gathering.

DEL BARCO: Assistant City Attorney Asha Greenberg says LA's new ordinance makes it a misdemeanor to run dispensaries without city approval.

Ms. GREENBERG: Anyone who is operating a medical marijuana establishment, who is violating the city's ordinance, is subject to arrest.

DEL BARCO: Dispensary owners and patients have filed more than 20 lawsuits against the city, arguing the ordinance is unconstitutional because it prohibits access to their medicine. So far, their attempts at temporary restraining orders have been turned down in court.

Ms. DARCY HUGHES (Former Manager, B Green): It's like treating us like drug dealers. It's not right.

DEL BARCO: Darcy Hughes was manager of a medical marijuana dispensary called B Green, which is now closed because of the new law. Hughes agrees there were far too many unregulated dispensaries in L.A., but now she and her patients don't know where they'll get their medicine.

Ms. HUGHES: I think the city is a little embarrassed about what happened, and this is what they're trying to do to fix the situation. I think they got a little harsh. Unfortunately, I'll see a rise probably in more street, and back to the way it kind of was before the dispensaries.

DEL BARCO: Street sales?

Ms. HUGHES: Yeah. Street sales, unfortunately.

DEL BARCO: Under the new ordinance, those who illegally sell medical marijuana in Los Angeles could face daily fines, a $1,000 penalty and six months in jail.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.

AMOS: This is NPR News.

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