Thursday, November 12, 2009

Venice Residents Offer Suggestions for Medical Marijuana Regulations

Venice residents offer suggestions to L.A. city officials on regulating
medical marijuana facilities

Nov. 12, 2009

Venice has been no stranger to the effect of having no permanent
regulations in place on medical marijuana dispensaries in the City of
Los Angeles.

The city attorney's office is currently presenting its proposed
draft ordinance establishing permanent regulations on the cultivation of
marijuana for medical purposes. In 2007 the city adopted an interim
control ordinance, a temporary moratorium on new medical marijuana
dispensaries, as it worked to develop a permanent ordinance but over 500
dispensaries or collectives are estimated to have been established
throughout the city during that time.

City officials argue that many of the dispensaries have opened after
applying for hardship exemptions which allow exceptions from the
moratorium if an established hardship is found. The proliferation of
such facilities throughout the city has presented the risk of unlawful
cultivation, sale or illegal use of marijuana for non-medical purposes,
according to the city attorney's office.

Some news reports have indicated that an estimated 25 stores in Venice
are either distributing medical marijuana to registered members of the
collectives or have applied for a license to do so. The number of
dispensaries believed to be currently operating in Los Angeles is
estimated between 800 and 1,000, city attorney spokeswoman Jane Usher

Both City Attorney Carmen Trutanich and Los Angeles County District
Attorney Steve Cooley have indicated that they intend to crack down on
dispensaries that distribute medical marijunana for profit.

With the city in the process of proposing its draft ordinance, the
Venice Neighborhood Council organized a town hall meeting Thursday,
November 5th to allow community members to offer input on how they feel
city dispensaries should be regulated. Council members noted that the
discussion was "timely" because city officials are currently
reviewing the law and it enabled residents to give recommendations on
the facilities.

"It is likely that what we say at the town hall will influence the
city's direction on medical marijuana," council President Mike
Newhouse, who moderated the meeting, said prior to the event.

More than 100 people came out to the meeting, which included Usher of
the city attorney's office and representatives of City Councilman
Bill Rosendahl. Audience members addressed a variety of issues, such as
specific ordinance regulations, the number of dispensaries, how close
they should be to each other and how close they should be to schools and
religious institutions.

When Newhouse asked the audience who opposed legalizing marijuana, not
one person raised a hand. Although it was apparent that most were in
favor of the right to cultivate marijuana for medical use, many differed
on the way stores should operate.

"Within those folks there was a lot of diversity on how (the
dispensaries) should operate," Newhouse said.

Arturo Pina, Venice deputy for Rosendahl, told the town hall audience
that the councilman has been a strong advocate for a patient's right
to access medical marijuana but he also wants to ensure that
dispensaries are regulated, taxed and subject to certain planning

Usher acknowledged that crafting the proposed ordinance has been a
challenge for city attorneys and they encourage public comments.

"It's been quite a predicament to try to write it
correctly," Usher told the meeting attendees.

Some representatives of collectives said they want to ensure that the
city considers the concerns of patients who need to access marijuana for
medical ailments.

"We see an attempt to drive medical marijuana away from the patients
and in the ground," said James Shaw of Venice. "We're
looking out for the interests of all medical marijuana patients."

When asked if there should be a limit on the number of facilities
operating, some people said that the market will determine how many are
able to remain. Resident Jim Smith said the number of dispensaries
should be chosen based on how many patients there are in the community.

Others took issue with the proposed provision that medical marijuana
should be cultivated on site, saying that it poses a security risk or
the city doesn't "make people go to Bakersfield for their

Some also expressed opposition to a provision limiting dispensaries at
least 1,000 feet from each other and school sites, arguing that would
leave few places to operate a facility. Venice Neighborhood Council Vice
President Linda Lucks suggested that as a model, the city consider the
ordinance regulating strip clubs and adult bookstores to at least 500
feet of schools and parks.

The neighborhood council plans to incorporate the town hall comments
into a position of the advisory board on the city's draft ordinance
at its meeting Tuesday, November 17th. The council will also consider a
proposed community impact statement that approves of dispensary
regulations but disagrees with the "overly burdensome approach"
of the draft ordinance.

http://www.argonaut newspaper. com/articles/ 2009/11/12/ news_-_features/ ven\

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