The Los Angeles County city of El Monte is OK with supporting the business of medical marijuana but draws the line at dispensaries.

The City Council voted Tuesday 3-1 to move forward with new rules allowing operators on the business side of the medical marijuana industry — distributors, manufacturers and lab testers among them — to set up shop in the city, while still banning retail outlets selling the drug to patients. Councilman J. Gomez was the lone “no” vote, while Councilwoman Norma Macias was absent.

The ordinance preliminarily approved Tuesday would permanently ban all businesses related to recreational pot. It also would prohibit citywide cannabis retailers, dispensaries, microbusinesses and delivery services related to both recreational and medical marijuana.

However, the city would allow businesses that cultivate, manufacture, test or distribute medical marijuana in specific areas: Research labs would be allowed in the Flair Park area of El Monte; manufacturers and distributors would be allowed in the city’s northwest industrial area and in the East Valley Entryway area.

Businesses would be prohibited from opening within 600 feet of existing schools, and they would be required to reach out to businesses and residents within 150 feet to notify them of any effects they may face as a result of the cannabis business locating near them.

The ordinance will come back before the City Council at a later meeting for a second reading and a final vote for approval.

Related: Cannabis operations in pipeline in coastal SoCal city

Several residents at the meeting said they were concerned about allowing medical marijuana into the city. One, Gabriel Ramirez, said he was worried about schoolchildren walking past the medical cannabis businesses and smelling marijuana.

“How will you feel when kids are walking and smelling medical or nonmedical marijuana?” Ramirez asked the City Council. “Whatever distance they have to keep from schools, it won’t work.”

Councilwoman Victoria Martinez said she visited an existing cultivation business and found that, from the outside, it was like any other manufacturing business — so nondescript that a person would not detect what was being made inside.

“Anyone walking past one of these manufacturing locations in the community would just keep on walking while business continues to happen within our city,” Martinez said.

Gomez wasn’t convinced.

“I’ve been told, ‘J., this is going to generate hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of dollars,’” Gomez said. “Will that cure the city’s safety issues? Is there someone who can guarantee that? I don’t think so.”

A year ago, before the passage of Proposition 64 legalized recreational marijuana use and allowed for its commercialization, El Monte established a moratorium banning all commercial cannabis activity through July 2018 to provide time for the city to consider its options, said City Manager Jesus Gomez.

Last week, the Baldwin Park City Council approved an ordinance that would permit both medical and recreational commercial cannabis businesses to operate in the city.

Also on Tuesday, the West Covina City Council directed city staff to prepare an ordinance permitting commercial cultivation of marijuana in the city.

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