Whittier OKs moratorium for new medical marijuana dispensaries

December 07, 2009

Mike Sprague, San Gabriel Valley Tribune

The City Council on Tuesday night voted unanimously to impose a 45-day moratorium on any new medical marijuana dispensaries. Mayor Bob Henderson said this temporary ban will give the city time to amend its existing ordinance to ensure Whittier isn't flooded with more of the businesses.

The council already has approved a permit for one such business, Seventh and Hope, at 8116 Byron Road, Suite D. It hasn't opened yet.

"What I'm asking for is a criteria developed that would prevent the over-concentration in a small area so there aren't too many in the community," Henderson said.

"We don't want to see a shopping center of dispensaries," Henderson said.

Henderson said he's concerned because the city has received a lot of inquiries asking about opening another medical marijuana dispensary.

"There should be a reasonable number," he said. "It shouldn't become a regional solution."

Henderson said two possible ways to control the issue would be to establish a distance requirement between dispensaries or a place cap on them.

The temporary ban will give the city planning staff time to devise the necessary changes, said Jeff Collier, director of community development.

The council most likely will be asked to extend the moratorium on Jan. 12 for another 10 months and 15 days. A new ordinance is expected to come back to the council by spring 2010, Collier said.

Collier confirmed the city has received a number of inquiries - maybe as many as 50.

"I believe there is a lot of pressure to spot more facilities in that small area," Collier said, referring to the industrial area south of Washington Boulevard where the city now allows medical marijuana dispensaries.

Jason Jamison, president of GM Properties that represents two of the property owners on Byron Road, has said in the past that he's had several inquiries about opening a medical marijuana dispensary.

However, there are only two buildings in the area small enough to warrant a dispensary.

One of the owners, who is leasing property to Seventh and Hope, won't rent to another dispensary, Jamison said.

The second owner, who could, is still skeptical about his liability, Jamison said.

Whittier Councilman Joe Vinatieri, who with Councilwoman Cathy Warner voted in the past against allowing any dispensaries in the city, said earlier this week that his position is unchanged. He wasn't present during the discussion because he became ill Tuesday.

"If the council wants to slap a moratorium, I'm in favor of that," Vinatieri said. "(Medical marijuana) is inconsistent with our community's values."

A medical marijuana supporter said Whittier already is appreciated for its ordinance and that distance requirements could be OK.

"We don't necessarily object to deconcentration provisions as long as they don't produce such onerous requirements to prohibit their location in the city," said Kris Hermes, spokesman for Americans for Safe Access, a national group that supports medical marijuana.

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