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New questions about L.A. buffer zone for medical-marijuana businesses [Updated]

December 16, 2009 |  6:28 am

The City Council’s proposed restrictions on where medical-marijuana dispensaries could locate in Los Angeles would eliminate most sites, according to maps drawn by city planners.

City Councilman Ed Reyes said Tuesday that the current proposal — a 1,000-foot buffer between the dispensaries and residences or other "sensitive" areas, such as schools and parks — "will go out the window right away" when the council returns to the issue today.

The council postponed an expected vote on the ordinance last week after council members realized the restriction was likely to be so severe that it would either amount to a de facto ban or reduce the number of medical-marijuana businesses to a few mega-dispensaries located in isolated industrial parks.

[Updated at 1:16 p.m.: The City Council has postponed action on the ordinance until a Jan. 13 special meeting.] 

Reyes, who is chairman of the committee that crafted the draft ordinance, said he will show the council various alternatives, including a 500-foot buffer from schools and other sites and either a 500-foot or 200-foot setback from residences.

"I am still absorbing these numbers myself. I am trying to get a picture so I can frame the discussion," he said as he pored over maps of the 35 community areas.

City planners also looked at the potential effect on the 137 existing dispensaries that the council wants to allow to remain in business. With a 500-foot setback from residences, 132 would have to move, and with a 200-foot setback, 119 would have to find new locations.

"We're going to try to find a sweet spot," Reyes said.

Reyes said he did not expect the council to make a decision but to start a discussion that will resume after the holiday break. "I think, if anything, they will walk away and say, 'Wow, what do we do?' and in January we get knee deep in the mud and make it happen."

-- John Hoeffel

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