Los Angeles Postpones Vote On Restricting Marijuana Shops

Jars of medicine at Private Organic Therapy, a medical-marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles.Jars of medicine at Private Organic Therapy, a medical-marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles.Hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles got a reprieve Wednesday as the City Council delayed a vote on regulations that could, by some estimates, leave less than a dozen in business.

It was an “unexpected decision,” the Los Angeles Times reports, and will probably push final action into 2010 on an ordinance to stem the proliferation of medical marijuana shops, which have become more common than Starbucks outlets in some L.A. neighborhoods. A 1,000 or more shops may now be operating.

The sticking points for the City Council vote were requirements dispensaries be at least 1,000 feet from houses and apartments and that would limit the number of outlets to 70.

The net result could be a handful of big-box “mega-dispensaries” in industrial parks, according to City Council President Eric Garcetti. Heavily populated areas, such as the Wilshire district, he said, could be left with none.

In October, a California court struck down a city moratorium on the opening of new shops, so Los Angeles has been scrambling to come up with an alternative to controlling the spread of the shops. Some say the ubiquitous shops have led to de facto legalization of pot rather than providing a controlled system to distribute marijuana for medical use.

See the “Where’s the Weed?” map from the L.A. Times for a bird’s-eye view of the city’s pot problem.

– Article from NPR.

L.A. council puts off vote on medical marijuana dispensaries

John Hoeffel, Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday shunted a vote on its much-delayed medical marijuana ordinance most likely into next year, worried that the draft proposal could eliminate most dispensaries and lead to just a few “big-box” pot stores in isolated industrial areas.

The unexpected decision slowed the breakneck schedule the council had adhered to in recent weeks in its drive to pass an ordinance before the end of the year. The council has been on fast-forward since October, when a judge ruled that the city’s moratorium on dispensaries was invalid, leaving Los Angeles with almost no power to shut down hundreds that have opened without permission in the last two years.

But key council members had second thoughts about the council’s decision Tuesday to require dispensaries to be at least 1,000 feet from any residences. The council, at the end of a marathon session, voted for the amendment even though city planners warned that it might eliminate most locations.

“I think by doing that, we just gutted the entire work that we have done,” said council President Eric Garcetti, who pressed for the delay.

He said that he believed the council’s decision Tuesday to cap the number of dispensaries at 70 “is very cynical when in reality we know there’s going to be about five or 10 mega-dispensaries that would be in industrial parks, and that’s it.”

Overnight, the council appeared to shift its stance from speedily enacting a very restrictive ordinance that could be softened later to making sure the ordinance is right the first time. “I’m glad that we’re not rushing something through,” Garcetti said. “We can’t get this wrong.”

Over the objections of several members, the council decided to wait until the Planning Department can finish maps that show how many sites are available 500 feet and 1,000 feet from so-called sensitive uses, such as schools, parks, churches and residences.

S. Gail Goldberg, the city planning director, said she would like to finish both versions for each of the city’s 35 community plan areas by next Wednesday, when the council is scheduled to review them. “I actually have my mapping people not doing anything else right now,” she said. “I want to get this done.”

Councilman Ed Reyes, who oversaw the effort to write an ordinance, urged the council to “just take a deep breath” and wait for the maps.

“We are going to find that we have literally restricted this thing out of the city and that we will see ourselves in court because of the position we put ourselves in,” he said.

The council has known for years that it was likely to restrict dispensary locations. More than four years ago, then-Police Chief William J. Bratton recommended that dispensaries be kept from neighborhoods, schools and recreational areas. The first draft ordinance, written 20 months ago, prohibited dispensaries within a 1,000-foot radius of a list of sensitive uses that is similar to those in the current draft.

Reyes said he asked for the maps several months ago. City planners did submit sample maps in September for two community plan areas using 1,000-foot buffers.

Goldberg said the planning department, with its limited resources, was unable to complete the maps before the council altered the location criteria, which means the mappers have to take new data into account.

“This was a huge task for the Planning Department to take on,” she said.

Alan Bell, a senior city planner, said that creating the maps involves analyzing multiple sets of data and making calculations for every radius drawn. “It’s not as simple as pushing a button,” he said. “I have to say what we’ve done in the last few months has been unprecedented.”

Garcetti said he studied his council district Tuesday night and could not find any locations for dispensaries. “I was worried that all the work we had done and everything that we wanted to do had gone to the wind,” he said. After some debate over removing residences from the list, Garcetti asked the council to wait for the maps. “Then we’ll be able to do something that is . . . logical and fair,” he said.

A few council members urged the council not to put off a vote on the ordinance.

“We could have voted today. We have enough information. We don’t need the maps,” said Councilman Jose Huizar. “We have come a long way, and I think we have an ordinance that strikes a balance between neighborhood concerns and access.”

Reyes said he did not think the delay would make much difference and could lead to a better ordinance. “Let’s be frank,” he told the council, “not much is going to happen between now and the holidays.”

But Councilman Richard Alarcon said, “I say we do it and then we can truly have happy holidays.”

– Article from the Los Angeles Times.



  1. Anonymous on

    Ya know why they postpone there vote?? Its because if they didnt they know all there cops whould get roll up and killed over this matter, and they get remove from office at the end of a rope, that why. If they try anything it is OPEN CIVEL WAR period, unlike you cowards up there let us show you like the other guys call ya what? oh yea subjects i look it up and boy you guys lie to yourselfs to much!I belive its time to stop listening to people who live under any monarchy at all. When theses subjects grow up and learn then maybe we will let them back into the culture until then, your on your own time and your own plan.Why follow something that doenst work?? time to punt for you guys.BUT NICE PIC of Dave tho.

  2. Anonymous on

    Talk about ignorance shooting yourself in the foot. Especially when the economy is the way it is, tax it and you have coffer to help with the community especially education cause these folks really need it to run a effecient community. Set an example for the rest of the states so an industry with a foreseeably strong job market can be started. Hey our country was founded with the help of hemp as with our constitution was made out of hemp paper. Freedom by the people for the people!

  3. Reverend J Shaffer on

    They’ve had 13 years to work this out. . . instead, they spent more of the taxpayer’s time and money trying to weasel out of complying with the law than they have working to implement it.

    They should be in jail right now.

    If any Average Joe were to be such a Blatant, Public Scofflaw, he’d be spending years in the cooler. . .

    Make Citizen’s Arrests. . .

  4. josht45 on

    I found it sad and frustrating that NPR (National Public Radio) opted to parrot the number of “1000 Med MJ Dispensaries” in LA w/o even looking at the LA Weekly story that shows their are about half that (545 to be exact…ish). As far as I have read, they are the ONLY ones to have done a real investigation, even the LA City Council/DA/Mayor admits that 1000 is just a rough estimate, and they can’t even back up their numbers!
    I suggest everyone contact NPR’s Scott Hensley at NPR (search for NPR, then Scott’s name, I couldn’t find a direct email but did find a link to the “Health” section of NPR, which is his “beat”) and let him know he should investigate before reporting (The link to the LA Weekly story is located on the opening page of CC.)This is simply sloppy reporting, and I dare say borderline reporting when one simply parrots the info provided by a governmental agency w/o verifying the facts.

  5. Anonymous on

    I agree with Councilman Reyes that it would be a good idea to wait for the planning department to get the maps, clearly huizar and alarcon are just trying to rush and rush and pass an ordinance that bans dispensaries by “accident”
    after all not much is going to happen between now and the holidays is absolutely right, look already Garcetti said he studied his district and could not find any locations for dispensaries WTF are they trying to fool every body?

  6. Anonymous on

    Because of these bought off assholes L.A. city and county will be broke by 2010 and only the poorest will still be in this county, and YES cops! you better stay in your station houses or you will have nonthing, enforce any of this council and you will have only one thing on your hands …OPEN CIVIL WAR!!, We are willing to die for what is keepimg us alive, are you willing to die for your paycheck, coppers?