Medicinal marijuana dispensaries approved

March 29, 2006

Troy Anderson, San Gabriel Valley Tribune

A decade after California voters legalized medical marijuana, Los Angeles County supervisors voted 4-1 Tuesday to regulate dispensaries in unincorporated areas, effectively lifting a countywide ban on the facilities.

Dozens of medical marijuana advocates hailed the vote as they gathered in the rain outside the Hall of Administration, some lighting up joints.

Advocates said that even despite the ban, dozens of dispensaries have been operating throughout the county, including one recently in Hacienda Heights.

" represents a major step forward," said Don Duncan, a spokesman for the Hacienda Heights dispensary closed by the county last year. "This ordinance puts the county of Los Angeles ahead of the curve on this issue."

Under the new rules, dispensaries must obtain valid business licenses to operate. They also must obtain minor conditional-use permits to operate in commercial, industrial and residential zones. The dispensaries may not be within 1,000 feet of schools, youth facilities, churches and parks, and must have signs, adequate lighting, a security system and guards.

The dispensaries can provide customers with edible marijuana and customers can smoke marijuana on site as long as there is a separate, well-ventilated room.

They also must distribute the owners' name and emergency contact phone number to neighbors in case of problems. A public hearing before the Regional Planning Commission will be held if two or more nearby property owners protest. Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich cast the sole dissenting vote, saying he wanted complaints to go before the Board of Supervisors.

"We have an opportunity to allow the community to be involved in deciding the impact on them," Antonovich said. "To have it decided by a non-elected body does not allow the community to be engaged. The supervisors sought to regulate the dispensaries after sheriff's deputies and health officials reported some have been the sites of illegal activities.

City News Service contributed to this story.



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