Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Long Beach to consider medical marijuana regulations

Los Angeles has its much-contested pot dispensary ordinance. Now
it’s Long Beach’s turn.

On Tuesday night, L.A. County’s second-largest city is likely to
vote on its own sweeping medical marijuana regulations, which would cap
the number of dispensaries at 18 -- two for each council district -- and
require them to register and be licensed by the city.

Home to as many as 80 dispensaries, according to city estimates, Long
Beach is the latest in a wave of cities across California that have
tried to clamp down on medical marijuana distributors.

Under the ordinance, which is being considered for the first time in its
entirety after months of debate, only medical marijuana dispensaries
could grow the plant and would have to disclose their cultivation sites.

It also would require buffer zones of 500 feet to 1,500 feet around
schools and bar dispensaries from operating within 1,000 feet of each
other. In practical terms, the law would drastically reduce the number
of dispensaries, which are currently unregulated, and limit them to
major boulevards or industrial areas, City Atty. Bob Shannon said. The
ordinance would take effect 90 days after it passes.

In January, the Los Angeles City Council passed some of the
state’s toughest restrictions to curb the hundreds of
dispensaries that have spread throughout the city.

Medical marijuana advocates sued the city last week, saying the
regulations were so limiting they would require the vast majority of
dispensaries, even law-abiding ones, to shut their doors.

Long Beach officials said their ordinance was designed to be less
restrictive than Los Angeles'. No dispensaries would be grandfathered
in, but Shannon said the criteria for choosing which ones get to stay
has not been decided.

Still to be worked out is whether the city will restrict cultivation to
within city limits, as recommended by law enforcement officials, or
extend that to Los Angeles County.

Councilman Robert Garcia said Tuesday that he has concerns with such a
provision, saying the limitation could bring an unwanted swath of pot
farms to the city.

Nonetheless, he said he would support the ordinance if it broadened
cultivation to include all of California.

"We have to make it accessible and fair and make sure the patients have
access to it," Garcia said "But we also have to make sure the
collectives are being good neighbors."

-- Tony Barboza

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