Torrance council rejects medical marijuana shops

August 01, 2006

Ian Hanigan , Daily Breeze (CA)

Torrance business licenses will no longer be granted to medical marijuana dispensaries -- or any establishments that breach federal law, a unanimous City Council ruled Tuesday night.

In doing so, Torrance becomes the first South Bay city to declare co-ops, which provide medicinal pot for specific ailments, unwelcome within its boundaries.

Though about 20 medical marijuana supporters spoke out against the ordinance and urged the council to simply regulate local dispensaries, council members said most residents did not want these facilities in their community.

"Most people in favor of this aren't from Torrance," Councilman Tom Brewer said. "Most people opposed are from Torrance."

Mayor Frank Scotto said he received numerous phone calls about the issue, and almost all of the people he talked to encouraged the ordinance's adoption.

"I think Torrance is a community that we don't want this type of activity," Scotto said.

But what remained unclear even after the 6-0 vote -- which drew some jeers from the audience -- was how the new ordinance would impact the only marijuana dispensary already here.

The Green Cross of Torrance has been operating from a nondescript storefront on Hawthorne Boulevard since April 20. City leaders have said existing businesses will have to affirm that they are in compliance with federal law before their licenses are renewed, which happens at the end of the year.

On July 18, the Torrance council first took a vote on the proposal. But with Councilman Paul Nowatka out of the country and another seat vacant, proponents didn't have the four votes needed to officially adopt the new ordinance. That night, council members Pat McIntyre and Bill Sutherland voted against it.

Nowatka asked to bring the recommendation back when he returned.

City officials have insisted that the ordinance was not written for the sole purpose of preventing the arrival of cannabis dispensaries. But they say it was the Green Cross of Torrance that sparked the movement.

On Tuesday night, supporters who spoke out in favor of the local dispensary -- and of marijuana's attributes in general -- heavily outnumbered those who spoke out against it.

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