Tuesday, November 10, 2009

West Hollywood Medical Marijuana Regulations

WeHo Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Re-Regulated

Monday, November 9, 2009
By WeHo News Staff, West Hollywood

West Hollywood, California (November 9, 2009) - Against a storm of
controversy over proliferation of pot clubs in the LA region and
municipalities' inability to come to grips with the phenomenon, West
Hollywood stayed ahead of the curve by re-regulating its medical
marijuana dispensary law to provide added security and peace of mind in
its last council meeting.

The formative Medical Marijuana ordinance designed during a
proliferation of dispensaries in 2004-05 comes up against an expiration
at year's end, so the city moved to license them, giving them
broader oversight.

The new law, passed November 2, changes the nomenclature from medical
marijuana "dispensary" to "collective, " caps the number at four in the
city and makes them an automatically permitted use while creating a
licensing process for medical marijuana dispensaries.

The licensing process adds requirements such as criminal background
checks and compliance with State Attorney General Guidelines.

Other measures included in the law establish a limit on the total square
footage of a collective (not to exceed 4,500 square feet); allows the
on-site cultivation of marijuana, but establishes a cap on the square
footage allowed for it (no more than 25 percent but in no case more than
1,500 square feet nor greater than ten feet in height) and establishes a
uniform compassion program for West Hollywood residents.

The moves come against a backdrop where nearby cities such as Los
Angeles and Long Beach struggle with a proliferation of the dispensaries
in their cities.

Long Beach enacted an ordinance controlling the dispensaries in August,
citing a lack of any ordinance regarding medical marijuana.

That city has at least 39 dispensaries operating in it, with five opened
within the past 14 days.

Los Angeles recently cracked down on illegally opened dispensaries,
which number as many as 1,000 by some estimates, which opened under a
loophole in that city's medical marijuana laws.

One dozen shops now operate between La Brea Ave. and La Cienega Blvd. on
Melrose Avenue, compared to the four that operate along Santa Monica
Boulevard in that same stretch.

In other quarters, efforts to tax the many-billion dollar business have
cropped up.

In Oakland, residents passed a first-ever tax on medical marijuana sold
in their city by a four-fifths vote in July.

Assembly member Tom Ammiano (D-SF) introduced a bill to tax and regulate
marijuana like alcohol as a way to generate revenue for the
revenue-starved state coffers.

Two ballot measures have been filed and are collecting signatures to
legalize marijuana for those over 18 and to "sin-tax" it, a
potential multi-billion revenue stream that could build schools.

West Hollywood has always been a "safe haven" for medical
marijuana, in fact, the Proposition 215 and AB 420, the initiative and
state law regulating the sale of medical marijuana, were written by
Wehoans – Rev. Scott Imler and then-Assembly member Paul Koretz.

When medical marijuana dispensaries descended upon the city in 2004-5 in
large number (the city had nine in 2005). By attrition, that number has
been reduced to four, with one operating illegally.

West Hollywood, as have most municipalities, initially regulated the
dispensaries through a conditional use permit (CUP), however, staff
foresaw difficulties arising from allowing CUPs because such permits run
with the land, proffering future operating rights on a parcel rather
than on a business's operation.

Likewise, they cited an illegal weapons cache discovered in a 2007 raid
on a Fairfax dispensary for wanting the ability to do criminal
background checks of new owners, denied them under a CUP.

Foreseeing the possibility that new ownership might even sub-leasing a
facility to the highest bidder, potentially bringing in criminal
elements, added urgency to their request for more regulatory control
over the businesses.

The staff report expressed fear "that unscrupulous potential
operators will be able to `game the system.'"

Don Duncan, who operates Los Angeles Patients & Caregivers Group (LAPCG)
dispensary, told WeHo News that he saw the city's reasoning for
wanting increased opportunities for prevention and enforcement.

"They're concerned about new ownership creating a situation
where they have no control; it makes sense," he said.

Assistant deputy city manager Lisa Belsanti explained in the first
council session on the subject in August that the existing four
dispensaries had comported themselves according to agreements made with
the city, many of which they offered up as part of the collegial
negotiations between the Medical Marijuana Task Force made up of law
enforcement, club owners and appropriate city staff.

Sheriff's crime figures for 2007-2009 showed a minimum of criminal
complaints at the city's shops, with only one robbery, a couple of
attempted or successful burglaries, one fight and half dozen
"disturbances. "

That compares favorably to nearby dispensaries in Los Angeles; we
reported recently on the capture of a suspect in a robbery-related
execution-style shooting of a security guard at a nearby (8th and
Wilshire) dispensary in October, as well as a recent robbery at 3rd and
Laurel Avenue.

http://wehonews. com/z/wehonews/ archive/page. php?articleID= 4111

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