L.A. City Council Reviews Medical Marijuana Ordinance

November 10, 2010

Christina Villacorte, City News Service

The Los Angeles City Council met behind closed doors Wednesday to consider amending its medical marijuana ordinance, but ultimately postponed a decision until Friday.

When the council approved the ordinance last spring, it allowed up to 180 dispensaries to stay open — specifically, those that registered with the city before a moratorium in 2007 — provided their operators kept a certain distance from homes, schools, religious institutions and other dispensaries.

The ordinance, however, ended up disqualifying 140 dispensaries because of a little-known provision that barred a management change in the past three years. The City Attorney’s Office promptly sued some of them to force them to shut down.

The proposed amendment — introduced by Councilman Paul Koretz — would allow dispensaries to remain open as long as they have “substantially” the same ownership and management in their registration papers.

Don Duncan, with Americans for Safe Access, said the proposed amendment was a “sensible step, a reasonable step.”

“Please don’t be afraid of a little extra paperwork to do this thing right,” he told the council. “I hope it’s a trend that we can look forward to, making these common-sense amendments to the ordinance to make it work for the patients, because that’s ultimately our common goal.”

Some council members previously expressed hesitation about amending the ordinance, while others warned that keeping only about 40 dispensaries open would reduce patients’ access to the drug.

The council passed the medical marijuana ordinance after the number of dispensaries across the city rose to several hundred when operators took advantage of a legal loophole. The ordinance set a cap of 70 dispensaries in Los Angeles but temporarily allowed the 180 dispensaries registered before the moratorium to stay open. If any of the 180 dispensaries goes out of business, it would not be replaced until the number drops to 70.

The ordinance requires dispensaries to be at least 1,000 feet away from schools, public parks, public libraries and religious institutions, as well as each other. Dispensaries are also barred from being “on a lot abutting, across the street or alley from, or having a common corner with a residentially zoned lot or a lot improved with residential use.”

If two dispensaries are within 1,000 feet of each other, the city clerk will establish a priority list to determine which one can stay in its current location, and which one must move.



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