Ever get a number in your head that, like an old song, you just can’t get out?

The number that’s been stuck in my head is 1,600. That’s the number of medical marijuana dispensaries that could be operating just within the city limits of Los Angeles.

I say “could be” because no one knows. It’s just a guesstimate. I got it from the article published in the Aug. 31 issue of the Los Angeles Business Journal headlined “Growing Like a. …” It said the city put a moratorium on marijuana dispensaries two years ago after 187 were authorized. But after that time, almost 800 additional shops opened, using – some might say “exploiting” – a loophole that essentially allowed them to fill out a form and open a shop.

But that’s not the end. Additional pot shops opened without even bothering to fill out the form. How many? The Pico Neighborhood Council wondered that, too. It conducted a survey and found 17 dispensaries that opened after the moratorium and 11 of those had not filled out the form.

The president of the neighborhood council was quoted in the article saying that you can safely double that number of 800 “to get a true picture of just how many dispensaries there are in this city.”

Do that, and you get a guesstimate of 1,600 dispensaries.

Think about that. The city figured there was enough after 187. After all, that’s about the same number of Starbucks shops in the city, and it’s hard to believe that there’s as much demand for true medical marijuana as there is for coffee. But now there’s maybe 1,600 shops. Are there that many glaucoma patients hereabouts?

Of course, there are worries about so many shops, particularly some of the new ones that didn’t bother to fill out a form. They and their patrons don’t always make the most cordial of neighbors and crime is being associated with some. You can almost see this coming: There’ll be a tragic incident or two followed by a public backlash.

Put that together with what the Los Angeles County district attorney said last week about how all the dispensaries in the county are operating illegally, and you can almost see the level of public disgust growing.

There’s a legitimate and serious debate to be had about whether we should legalize marijuana. But that may all be swept aside or at least set back if the Wild West of L.A.’s pot-shop culture continues to run lawlessly.

Charles Crumpley is the editor of the Los Angeles Business Journal. You can read more on Fox & Hounds Daily.