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L.A. bars medical marijuana shops next to residences

The council put off a vote on the last contentious issue until Tuesday, when it will decide whether dispensaries can be 500 feet or 1,000 feet from schools, parks and religious institutions.

January 14, 2010|By John Hoeffel

The Los Angeles City Council decided Wednesday to prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries next to residences, but rejected a proposal to keep them at least 500 feet away, which would have drastically limited the available locations.

The council, however, put off a vote on the last contentious issue until Tuesday, when it will decide whether dispensaries must be 500 feet or 1,000 feet from so-called sensitive uses, such as schools, parks and religious institutions.

After a monthlong hiatus from the issue, the council had been expected to vote on the ordinance Wednesday.

"It leaves us nowhere," Councilman Jose Huizar said. "It's a huge disappointment."

Hundreds of dispensaries have opened in Los Angeles, and city officials can do little to close them without a law.

But council President Eric Garcetti, who delayed the vote until next week, said, "I think we really honed in on maybe even 99% of what's to be done. There is consensus on all the rest, so there will be an ordinance passed on Tuesday."

More than 50 people, mostly medical marijuana supporters, addressed the council.

Yamileth Bolanos, who operates PureLife Alternative Wellness Center on South La Cienega Boulevard, said she has been open for four years 139 feet from a school and has had no complaints. "It doesn't matter where you are, it's how you run your collective that matters," she said.

Michael Larsen, public safety director for the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council, pressed for a 1,000-foot buffer.

"It's not about prohibition. It's about taking control of an out-of-control land-use situation which has made L.A. the laughingstock of the nation," he said.

The ordinance caps the number of dispensaries at 70, but allows about 137 dispensaries that registered in 2007 and are still open in their original locations to stay in business. On Wednesday, the council also agreed to include registered dispensaries that moved after their landlords were threatened with felony prosecution by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

"That was a big thing," said Tarek Tabsh, who owns Gourmet Green Room in Venice and pressed for the exception. He said he was forced to move from North Hollywood.

The change sparked concerns from Larsen and Huizar, who wanted to know how many more dispensaries it would allow. City officials said they think it will be only a few.

john.hoeffel@latimes.com

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