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CALIFORNIA : L.A. submits new draft ordinance on medical marijuana : Latest version from the city attorney raises the idea of capping the number of dispensaries by council district.

November 14, 2009|John Hoeffel

The Los Angeles city attorney's office on Friday submitted a new draft medical marijuana ordinance that could resolve some contentious issues but adds new complications, such as raising the idea of capping the number of dispensaries by council district or community plan area.

The latest draft clarifies that edible marijuana products will be allowed. It also removes a provision that would have required collectives to provide lists of members, which dispensary operators had strenuously opposed, arguing it would violate federal privacy laws.

Two City Council committees plan to meet jointly Monday to complete the ordinance and the council is scheduled to take it up Wednesday, more than a year and half after the first draft ordinance was sent to the council.

David Berger, a special assistant to City Atty. Carmen Trutanich, said the latest version, the fifth, was intended to speed the process.

"We could continue to refine this ordinance ad infinitum. It's time to get this ordinance done," he said, noting that the city attorney's office cannot launch actions to close dispensaries until an ordinance is in place.

"The whole idea is to get some control over the in-your-face way that business has been conducted up until now."

The city has hundreds of dispensaries, but a judge ruled last month that the city's moratorium was illegally extended and barred enforcement against a dispensary that sued, effectively leaving Los Angeles with no regulations.

Michael Larsen, the public safety director for the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council, urged the council to act quickly. "Our main objective is simply an ordinance," he said. "That's No. 1. That's the message we want to get out."

The proposal leaves in place a prohibition on the sale of marijuana, but it allows dispensaries to recover the "out-of-pocket costs of their collective cultivation."

Collective operators have repeatedly criticized the provision, saying it's unclear whether they would be able to continue to operate under that condition.

"It's still a square peg for a round hole," said Don Duncan, the California director for Americans for Safe Access. Duncan, who lives in Los Angeles, said it's based on the erroneous notion that collectives are like community gardens.

The proposed ordinance also keeps a requirement that dispensaries be located 1,000 feet from schools, parks, libraries and other so-called sensitive uses. City planners recently found that less than a quarter of the 186 dispensaries the city has allowed to operate under its ban would comply.

Duncan called the rule "unworkable," but Larsen said he believes it is "a very liberal allowance" compared with the caps other cities have placed on the number of dispensaries.

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john.hoeffel@latimes.com

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