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Bill to buffer homes from marijuana dispensaries advances

April 27, 2011 |  1:24 pm

State lawmakers Wednesday took a step toward banning medical marijuana operations from within 600 feet of residential areas.

The proposed restriction was approved by a key Senate committee at the request of Anaheim City Councilwoman Kris Murray, who said the pot shops were popping up in residential neighborhoods. Residents have complained about the dispensaries drawing traffic at all hours and of customers smoking marijuana in neighborhoods, Murray said.

Residents "didn’t feel safe on their own street any more," she told the Senate Governance and Finance Committee, which agreed to send the legislation to the Senate Rules Committee.

Sen. Doug La Malfa (R-Richvale) said voter approval of a state ballot measure permitting medical marijuana sales and use in 1996 had created a "wild west" for the industry. Regulators are trying to catch up.

"It’s just out of control right now," La Malfa said. "These things generally make pretty poor neighbors for people who don’t partake in this product."

The legislation by Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) would create buffer zones and allow cities to adopt even more stringent ones.

Supporters of medical marijuana said the proposal, SB 847, violated Proposition 215, which mandates access for patients. They note many commercial areas suited to dispensaries are close to residential zones where patients live. "This bill could serve to choke off access to collectives or cooperatives," said Don Duncan, California director for the group Americans for Safe Access. "We don’t want to push safe access into the shadows."

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento