Pot Dispensaries Get Tentative Green Light

After Nearly Three Years of Wrangling, the L.A. City Council Votes 11-3 to Regulate Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Since 2007 Los Angeles has had a temporary ordinance which banned medical marijuana dispensaries than weren't registered with the city. But the ordinance had a loophole operators used to open about 800 dispensaries across Los Angeles.

On Tuesday the Los Angeles City Council tentatively approved a new ordinance which would regulate the dispensaries, and set a cap which will eventually allow 70 dispensaries to operate within the city limits.

Right now the council will allow the 137 dispensaries that are registered with the city to continue to operate provided they adhere to certain restrictions, but if any of the 137 dispensaries closes down or goes out of business, it will not be replaced until the overall number is reduced to 70.

The measure also requires that dispensaries be kept 1,000 feet away from schools, hospitals, religious institutions and rehab centers, a restriction that pleases some teachers.

It is a great concern. We have noticed a spike in drug use on our campuses," said High School Teacher Kevin Flynn.

But some patients are worried about being able to access the dispensaries that are left.

"If you have pain and it hurts you to move, that's a far distance to go," Cheryl Aichele, a medical marijuana patient.

"If you’ve got patients that aren't able to get to dispensaries, and if you have patients that are having to drive very far away to industrial areas, then you have a problem," said Jennifer Soares, an advocate for medical marijuana.

L.A. City Council Member Jose Huizar says the dispensaries will be spread out enough for patients to have access.

"We have 35 planning areas in the city. Each area will have their fair allocation of dispensaries. So they will be located throughout the city," said Council Member Jose Huizar of the City of Los Angeles

The ordinance will also require dispensaries to not be located "on a lot abutting, across the street or alley from, or having a common corner with a residentially zoned lot or a lot improved with residential use."

To make sure collectives are not operating for profit, an independent certified public accountant will have to audit the collectives every year and submit the findings to the City Controller. Building and Safety inspectors and police officers would have to examine the location.

However, authorities could not look into patients' records without a search warrant, subpoena or court order.

The ordinance requires collectives to be open between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. and enforce stringent security measures -- including bars on their windows, closed-circuit cameras, burglar alarms, and security guards patrolling a two- block radius around the location.

The council approved the ordinance on an 11-3 vote. Council members Bernard Parks, Jan Perry and Bill Rosendahl cast dissenting votes, and Councilman Tom LaBonge was absent.

Since the measure did not receive a positive vote from 12 members, it will come back to the council next week for final approval.

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