Supervisors to vote on marijuana dispensaries

November 21, 2010

Troy Anderson, Los Angeles Daily News

In an effort to slow the spread of medical marijuana dispensaries, the Board of Supervisors will vote Tuesday whether to ban the facilities in unincorporated parts of Los Angeles County. The vote comes as Los Angeles and smaller cities throughout the region are working to limit the dispensaries' growth, raising concerns they may move into the unincorporated parts of the county where 1.5 million people live, said Paul Novak, planning deputy to Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich.

"Supervisor Antonovich is concerned about the impact of these facilities on the surrounding neighborhoods," Novak said. "You have nuisance issues, crime issues and people under the influence of marijuana driving through local communities."

But Kris Hermes, spokesman for the Oakland-based pro-medical marijuana group Americans for Safe Access, said the county hasn't experienced problems with the dispensaries and already has a 2006 ordinance in place that regulates and requires them to obtain conditional use permits.

"We as an organization have for years opposed outright bans on medical marijuana dispensaries and have gone to court on numerous occasions, the latest of which is a case stemming from a ban in Anaheim," Hermes said. "We have folks working on this in the Los Angeles area and they are mobilizing patients to express to the Board of Supervisors that a ban is not appropriate."

In 2006, the supervisors adopted land use regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries to distribute marijuana for medical purposes to qualified patients with a doctor's authorization.

Since then, more than 100 cities and nine counties in California have banned the dispensaries amid concerns about crime and other problems.

In July, the supervisors directed the Chief Executive Office to work with the Department of Regional Planning to draft an amendment to the 2006 ordinance banning the dispensaries in unincorporated parts of the county. In September, the Regional Planning Commission held a public hearing on the amendment and voted to recommend approval of the change to the supervisors.

Although no dispensaries are currently operating in unincorporated parts of the county with a conditional use permit, some are operating in violation of the county ordinance, said Karen Simmons, a supervising regional planner with the Department of Regional Planning.

"We have a zone enforcement task force that is currently looking into those and closing them up," Simmons said. 

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