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L.A. City Council Tentatively Approves Medical Marijuana Ordinance

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Photo by mares8 via LAist Featured Photos on Flickr


Photo by mares8 via LAist Featured Photos on Flickr
In an 11-3 vote, the Los Angeles City Council today approved the first reading of a proposed Medical Marijuana ordinance that would not only regulate dispensaries through a set of various municipal codes, but close hundreds of already-open locations.Today's vote finalized one of the remaining debated issues: how close should a facility be to sensitive uses such as schools and churches and how close to residential homes. The Council was faced with keeping dispensaries 500 or 1,000 feet away from sensitive uses and from being next to or across the street of residences.

The majority approved the 1,000 foot buffer, but due to council rules, ordinances must be heard and voted on a second time if it doesn't garner 12 or more unanimous votes. A second hearing and vote is scheduled for next Tuesday. If approved by a simple majority, it will soon become law once registration fees for dispensaries to pay are approved and set.

Although relieved with the near-end of over two years of debate, advocates for collectives are still concerned over rules within the ordinance that dictate operations, such as hours, membership, growing and selling. "This ordinance will strangulate, rather than regulate," said one person during public comment.

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Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, who fully supports medical marijuana, voted against the ordinance. "You know I have a problem with both of these motions," he said. "Look, we have, the worst budget crisis in the city's history. Why don't we just regulate and tax and get on with our budget issues."

Councilmember Bernard Parks, a former LAPD Chief, called marijuana a "gateway drug" and pushed for a 500 foot residential buffer in addition to the 1,000 foot buffer to sensitive uses. The crowd booed and hissed at Parks and Councilman Paul Koretz balked at the idea. "We take everything we've done and essentially throw it out the window," he said.