La Mirada puts freeze on pot centers

April 26, 2006

Mike Sprague, Whittier Daily News

LA MIRADA - The City Council has approved a 45-day temporary ban on medical marijuana dispensaries while a permanent ordinance can be drawn up.

The moratorium, approved Tuesday, is intended to give city staff time to prepare an ordinance specifying conditions and locations to accommodate such dispensaries, if needed.

Whittier and Los Angeles County have adopted such ordinances and Pico Rivera also has declared a temporary ban while it prepares a permanent ordinance.

A few businesses have already approached La Mirada about establishing medical marijuana dispensaries, City Manager Andrea Travis said.

"We don't have a list of conditions or guidelines that would help us determine proper zoning," Councilwoman Susan Tripp said. "This will give staff time to explore proper zoning so will have the least amount of impact on businesses that are nearby."

Medical marijuana dispensaries have been legal under state law since 1996, when California voters passed Proposition 215, which allows marijuana to be used for medical purposes.

However under federal law, marijuana is illegal to possess and use.

La Mirada's temporary ban will prevent any such establishment from opening until an ordinance is approved.

Before the 45-day period ends, another ban for 10 months and 15 days will be brought back to the council, giving staff additional time, if needed, to develop an ordinance, Travis said.

The city of Whittier and Los Angeles County already have enacted ordinances limiting where medical marijuana dispensaries can be located and imposing requirements, such as security guards, age limits and hours of operation.

In Whittier and unincorporated Hacienda Heights, medical marijuana dispensaries had opened before the ordinances were passed.

The Pico Rivera City Council last week extended its temporary ban to 10 months and 15 days.

While some cities, such as Fresno, have adopted bans on medical marijuana dispensaries, regulating is a better option, La Mirada Councilman Hal Malkin said.

"From my professional side, has a medical use," said Malkin, who is also an instructor in the Pharmacy Department at Cerritos College.

"It's used by people with cancer," Malkin said. "It's one of the most effective ways of stopping nausea. I don't think at the local area that we have the right to intercede in medical decisions."

mike.sprague@sgvn.com



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