Southern California

Los Angeles backs new regulations on marijuana industry

Los Angeles lawmakers backed a host of new regulations for the marijuana industry Wednesday, paving the way for the hotly anticipated business of recreational pot.

Despite a slew of concerns about the exact details of the plan, the Los Angeles City Council voted 12 to 0 for the regulations, which now go to the mayor for his approval.

The elaborate rules reflect a tug-of-war at City Hall over the hopes and fears for the soon-to-be-legalized industry. They have been a prime focus of Council President Herb Wesson, who said Wednesday that cities across the country will be looking to Los Angeles.

“Let’s make history,” Wesson said before the vote.

The City Council has been eager to pull in new revenue from the marijuana business, which is expected to generate more than $50 million in tax revenue for the city next year. Recreational pot will be legal in California as of Jan. 1.

The council also has vowed to make sure that disadvantaged communities that were hit hardest by the war on drugs can now cash in, a quest near and dear to political progressives.

Under its “social equity” program, the city will give priority processing and other assistance to marijuana business applicants who are poor and were previously convicted of some marijuana crimes — or who have lived in areas that were heavily affected by cannabis arrests.

While other cities have shied away from marijuana, “this is a city that is ready to make the jump and not just put their toe in the water,” said Brad Rowe, an adjunct professor at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and CEO of the research and consulting firm Botec Analysis.

But L.A. lawmakers have also imposed a long list of restrictions on where marijuana shops and other businesses can open their doors, amid concerns that the pot industry could be a new source of nuisance or blight. Marijuana industry groups have bristled at some of those rules.

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Under the new regulations, pot shops can only open their doors in specific commercial and industrial zones and must operate at least 700 feet away from schools, public parks and libraries, child care centers, alcohol and drug treatment centers and other “sensitive” sites, as well as from other pot retailers.

Other kinds of marijuana businesses, including growers and manufacturers, would be confined to industrial zones and banned within 600 feet of schools. And marijuana manufacturers that use volatile solvents would also be prohibited within 200 feet of residential areas.

To prevent an “undue concentration” in neighborhoods, city leaders also decided to cap the number of pot shops, growers, manufacturers and marijuana “micro-businesses,” which do a combination of things, allowed in each community.

Those caps, which are based on population and zoning ratios, would ultimately limit the maximum number allowed across Los Angeles.

City officials have calculated that under those restrictions, no more than 390 pot shops, 336 growers and 520 marijuana manufacturers could be licensed across the city. Microbusinesses, which could also count toward the limits on pot shops or growers if they cultivate or sell marijuana, would be limited to a maximum of 520.

However, planning officials say that in many neighborhoods, zoning restrictions may prevent the number of marijuana businesses from ever reaching those maximum numbers. Virgil Grant, president of the Southern California Coalition, argued that there was no need for such caps because the required buffers from sensitive sites would create “an organic cap.”

“You’re going to bottleneck the industry,” Grant said.

The complex regulations also lay out how marijuana businesses will be vetted and inspected, require security and video surveillance, and bar marijuana or alcohol from being consumed at shops, among other rules.

And even as the city provides a helping hand to pot entrepreneurs once jailed for marijuana crimes, it is blocking people who committed other kinds of violent or serious offenses from getting marijuana licenses for years after their convictions, a sign that the pot business is still seen as especially sensitive.

© 2017 the Los Angeles Times. Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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