Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Los Angeles to Limit Marijuana Dispensaries

LOS ANGELES â€" The Los Angeles City Council approved an ordinance
on Tuesday that shutters roughly 80 percent of the nearly 1,000 medical
marijuana dispensaries in the city and makes the use of marijuana in the
remaining outlets illegal.

The vote amounts to a major setback for backers of medical marijuana and
a victory for community groups that have long complained about the
proliferation of the dispensaries near residential neighborhoods,
schools and parks. Los Angeles has more of the outlets than any other
city in the states that allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

“These are out of control,†said Councilman Ed Reyes,
chairman of the planning and land-use management committee, which
oversaw the writing of the ordinance. “Our city has more of these
than Starbucks.â€

The measure, which passed on a 9-to-3 vote, would impose stringent rules
on the location of the dispensaries â€" essentially moving them to
industrial zones â€" and restrict their hours. The ordinance, which
city officials acknowledged would be difficult to enforce, would limit
the number of dispensaries at 70 but suggested that even fewer would be
permitted if there was not ample space under the new parameters to
accommodate them.

The ordinance requires the signature of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
before taking effect, and will require council-approved fees levied on
the dispensaries to cover the city’s cost of monitoring.

While medical marijuana use and sale have enjoyed general support
throughout the city and among lawmakers, the aggressive proliferation of
dispensaries in recent years has tried the patience of even the most
liberal of groups.

“I’ve seen enough people come into my committee, and you
can see they are hurting,†Mr. Reyes said. “So this is
very difficult.â€

The meeting was peppered with angry testimony from medical marijuana
users, who threatened to run lawmakers out of office, as well as
neighborhood association members who worried that enforcement would be

California voters approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes in
1996, and cities across the state have since struggled with how best to
regulate the distribution of the drug. Many cities have imposed
restrictions on the number and location of dispensaries, and Los Angeles
imposed a moratorium about two years ago while the City Council studied
the issue. In the meantime, however, hundreds of dispensaries continued
to open despite the ban.

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