|Photo: Robyn Twomey
|California patients wait for assistance at a marijuana dispensary. Los Angeles currently has more pot stores than either Starbucks or McDonald’s.
After nearly a month, the Los Angeles City Council returns Wednesday to the contentious issue of how to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries. City leaders hope they will finally be able to vote on the long-delayed ordinance, in the planning stages for nearly two years.
The council stalled in December over possible zoning restrictions on where dispensaries can be located. Debate was postponed until planners completed an analysis of several proposals.
Maps drawn by city planners show that placing strict limits on the dispensaries’ proximity to residences would eliminate almost all locations, reports John Hoeffel of the Los Angeles Times
Today’s debate will likely focus on whether 500- or 1,000-foot buffer zones should be mandated between dispensaries and “sensitive uses,” including schools, parks, libraries, religious institutions, childcare facilities and youth centers.
Ed Reyes, the councilman who has overseen much of the writing of the ordinance, said he is willing to accept either approach. “I think it’s going to be one of those cases where not everyone is going to be happy, but we have to move something along,” he said.
Many of the other most controversial issues have been somewhat resolved, though they could be revisited, Hoeffel reports.
The council’s 15-page ordinance caps the number of marijuana dispensaries at 70, but allows shows that officially registered with the city before the 2007 dispensary moratorium, and which are still in their original locations, to remain in business. Officials estimate there are about 137 such dispensaries.
In October, a local judge ruled that the moratorium was extended illegally and is thus invalid. That left Los Angeles with almost no control over the proliferating marijuana dispensary business, Hoeffel writes.
The ordinance would require 12 votes in favor and none against to pass on first reading. In the absence of that unlikely scenario, the council will have to vote again a week later.
Once the ordinance takes effect, the city could move to shut down unlicensed dispensaries, but that would likely ignite legal challenges that could take a while to sort through.