Medical Marijuana Debate Gets Emotional

By chillinwill · Dec 18, 2009 ·
  1. chillinwill
    The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday debated giving its members discretion in deciding how far medical marijuana dispensaries should be located from homes in their respective districts.

    A vote was postponed, however, until Jan. 13, when the council is scheduled to hold a special session devoted to a medical marijuana ordinance.

    Councilwoman Jan Perry suggested letting council members choose whether dispensaries should be 500 or 1,000 feet away from homes in their districts.

    She introduced the motion after Senior City Planner Alan Bell said dispensaries would be banned from most neighborhoods under her original proposal -- adopted by the council last week -- to keep dispensaries 1,000 feet away from residences, schools, public parks and libraries, religious institutions, licensed child care facilities, youth centers, hospitals, medical facilities, rehab centers and other dispensaries.

    The motion amended a provision that required that dispensaries not be located next to or across the street from homes, and to stay at least 1,000 feet away from other dispensaries and 500 feet away from so-called "sensitive uses" like schools.

    Displaying maps of various districts, Bell said keeping dispensaries 1,000 feet away from homes, sensitive-use sites and other dispensaries would "basically zone out most areas of the city as locations for medical marijuana collectives."

    "If the city were to adopt a 500-foot standard, most medical marijuana collectives would have to locate in industrial areas," Bell said.

    It would also force the relocation of all but five of the 137 existing dispensaries that the city is prepared to allow under the proposed ordinance, he added.

    Bell instead suggested a 500-foot buffer from sensitive uses and 200 feet from residences, which would result in all of the city's 35 planning areas having some commercial or industrial acreage available as a potential dispensary site.

    "The council's policy is to try to make sure there are commercial sites available and not to shunt them all into industrial zones," Bell said.

    But Councilman Greig Smith was adamant about keeping a 1,000-foot buffer from homes, saying the crime rate is high around dispensaries.

    "I will not stand before the voters of my district and say to them with a straight face that I allowed (dispensaries) to go in," he said, prompting loud boos from medical marijuana advocates.

    Councilman Richard Alarcon supported keeping dispensaries 1,000 feet from sensitive uses and 500 feet from residential buildings. Councilman Bill Rosendahl suggested a 100-foot buffer zone from homes.

    The city has been trying to regulate dispensaries for four years. Officials estimate several hundred illegal dispensaries are operating across Los Angeles.

    John Schwada
    December 17, 2009
    My Fox LA

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