Hermosa places moratorium on medical marijuana

April 27, 2006

Deepa Bharath , Daily Breeze (CA)

Faced with a large gap between what federal and state law allow regarding medical marijuana dispensaries and the prospect of an influx of potential customers looking to score a legal high, local cities are moving to impose temporary bans as they explore guidelines on such establishments.

Hermosa Beach this week became the first city in the South Bay to impose a moratorium against medical marijuana dispensaries. The council unanimously voted Tuesday in favor of a 45-day moratorium.

Pot dispensaries for medical use are allowed under California's Proposition 215, but federal law deems distribution of marijuana for any purpose illegal. Ten other states signed off on similar laws allowing medical marijuana use.

Hermosa Beach City Attorney Michael Jenkins told council members that other communities where such dispensaries have cropped up are facing problems.

"These clinics obviously attract people into town who want to use marijuana, but who are not necessarily ill," he said.

None currently operate in Hermosa Beach. The only functioning dispensary in the South Bay and Harbor Area is in San Pedro.

City Manager Steve Burrell said the moratorium will give planners time to come up with a regulatory ordinance for conditional use permits that will spell out specific guidelines on how, where and when such clinics may operate in the city.

The moratorium may be extended twice, Jenkins said. The maximum duration of the extensions are 10 months and 15 days for the first and a year for the second.

"That'll give staff adequate time to come up with an ordinance," he said.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last month approved an ordinance that will permit the dispensaries in commercial and industrial zones of Lennox, Del Aire and other unincorporated areas.

But the approval came with the conditions that they must be at least 1,000 feet away from schools, parks, churches and day-care centers. They must also hire security guards and will have to publicly post their owners' contact phone numbers, among other requirements.

In addition to marijuana that could be smoked, the dispensaries will also sell candy and other edible items containing the drug to authorized patients.

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