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L.A. City Council Tentatively Approves Medical Marijuana Ordinance

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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.

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."