Drug Law

L.A. City Council Delays Medical Marijuana Vote Until Jan. 19

| by ASA

By Don Duncan

The Los Angeles City Council delayed final approval of regulations for medical cannabis collectives until Tuesday. Councilmembers want more time to study a report by the Planning Department and new ordinance language provided by the City Attorney less than one hour before this morning’s meeting. The debate about the regulations seems to be winding up, with only a few contentious issues left to resolve – including where collectives can locate and how many will be allowed.

More than one hundred Angelinos showed up for today’s Special Meeting, more than half of whom spoke in segments strictly limited to one minute each by acting President Dennis Zine. The crowd was stunned to hear the Executive Director of Beverly Hills NORML, Cheryl Shuman, tell the Council that she was denied a liver transplant because of her medical cannabis use. “I am going to die because of this,” she told the Council.

The 51-page report from the Planning Department showed the acreage available for collectives under differing regulatory schemes. In most cases, requiring buffer zones between a laundry list of sensitive uses and residential uses would eliminate most opportunities. For example, the report shows that requiring collectives to more than 500 feet from sensitive uses and any property used as a residence would mean that only four of the 137 collectives registered before the city’s moratorium could remain open.

President Garcetti cautioned his colleagues about approving tough location requirements without being realistic about the outcomes. “If we pretend there are going to be seventy [collectives] and there are really oly eight, shame on us,” Garcetti said. In response, the Council approved a motion to remove residential use form the list of sensitive uses, but approved a separate motion forbidding collectives from being located “on a lot abutting, across the street or alley from, or having a common corner with” any residential use, including mixed use properties.

The Council will decide on Tuesday whether they will require 500 or 1,000 feet between collectives and non-residential sensitive uses. These include schools, public parks, public libraries, religious institutions, licensed child care facilities, youth centers, substance abuse rehabilitation centers, or other medical cannabis collectives. Councilmember Paul Koretz observed that the lengthy report from the Planning Department did not consider the outcome for a 1,000-foot buffer zone from these uses, coupled with the restrictions on abutting residential uses.

The Council also debated how to distribute the seventy collectives allowed under a previous amendment throughout the city’s thirty five Community Plan Areas. The Community Plan Areas are smaller the City Council Districts, and the current draft anticipates dividing collectives proportionally based on population. There is also some controversy about how to deal with collectives that registered before the moratorium, but had to move as a result of DEA intimidation. Councilmember Rosendahl wants these displaced collectives to share a 180-day compliance grace period with those that did not relocate.

Americans for safe Access (ASA), the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance (GLACA), and other advocates will use the latest delay to keep asking Councilmembers for improvements that protect safe access. The City council is expected to vote on a final ordinance on Tuesday, 19.