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Council Staying Focused on Marijuana Dispensary List

By Eric Richardson
Published: Monday, August 31, 2009, at 10:48AM

The minds of Los Angeles' City Council members have been on pot lately, as the body has begun to work its way through the massive list of medical marijuana dispensaries that had sprung up in recent months under what they viewed as a loophole in city law prohibiting new facilities.

Tuesday's Council agenda includes 38 dispensaries, including two Downtown at 111 E. 9th and 748 S. San Pedro. None are recommended for approval.

At an August 8 meeting of the council's Planning and Land Use Management committee, the San Pedro street facility's location brought out opposition from LAPD officer Mark Highland, Union Rescue Mission CEO Andy Bales and Central City East Association Executive Director Estela Lopez.

"We cannot bring any more uses into the district that compete with the efforts that are underway now to bring peace, calm, safety and security to the Skid Row area," said Lopez. "I can think of no worse location for a dispensary than the Skid Row area of Downtown Los Angeles."

"I merely have to take a walk around the block to breathe marijuana smoke in the air," said Bales. "It has destroyed enough lives on Skid Row."

In the end, the committee had little interest in specific stories, other than why the dispensaries presented had not registered within 60 days of the city's 2007 Interim Control Ordinance banning new outlets.

"We keep hearing comments about what is good, what is bad," said committee chair Ed Reyes. "This hearing is about what kept them from registering on time by the ICO. That's the essence of the statements that we need to hear."

An article in today's Daily Breeze indicates that the fight over dispensaries could drag out past just a council denial. The paper says that a coalition of dispensaries has hired legal representation to fight to keep denied outlets open.

Since the city passed the ICO in late 2007, dispensaries had continued to open, filing hardship exemption applications to work around the ban. In June, the city removed the hardship exemption, which it had only intended to provide relief for dispensaries that had been in operation at the time of the ICO.

Hundreds of applications were filed in the weeks leading up to the exemption's removal.

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