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Residential-area ban on pot dispensaries?

December 9, 2009 12:19:44 AM PST
The Los Angeles City Council passed on a vote Wednesday to approve a new medical marijuana ordinance that could close hundreds of pot dispensaries across the city. The council instead asked for more research on how many dispensaries would be affected.Twenty-five-year-old Mike Oliveri has muscular dystrophy and uses medical marijuana to control his pain and nausea.

The L.A. City Council made a mistake drawing up its marijuana ordinance Tuesday, and that could seriously affect his ability to get legal marijuana.

The council's proposed ordinance would keep marijuana dispensaries 1,000 feet from residential areas.

"When they talk about thousand-foot restrictions, which pretty much means elimination altogether -- because there's nothing that's not within 1,000 feet -- that affects my life," said Oliveri.

The ordinance would supposedly allow already-registered marijuana collectives. That number is estimated at 137. There are as many as 1,000 unregulated dispensaries in Los Angeles now.

Yami Bolanos runs one of the legal dispensaries. The thousand-foot restriction will affect her elderly and disabled customers. Nineteen are more than 80 years old. Bolanos has talked with nine property managers about relocating.

"None of them could come up with a thousand feet. That's nine property managers in a seven-mile radius of Pure Life," said Bolanos. "That essentially closes down my collective."

The city council didn't realize it would be so drastic for most of the medical marijuana dispensaries. The council has asked for maps by next week that show the impact of the 1,000-foot buffer. But most already know the answer.

"If you include residential uses as a sensitive use, you are pretty much relegating any dispensary to industrial areas," said Councilman Jose Huizar.

"It looks like if it was a thousand feet, there would probably be no place in the Wilshire plan area -- which is the most densely populated part of America outside of Manhattan -- about 600,000 people live there, where they would be able to have access," said L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti.

The city council is crawling toward a final vote on regulating marijuana dispensaries, but probably won't vote until January.


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