Pubdate: Sun, 5 Jul 2009
Source: Long Beach Press-Telegram (CA)
Copyright: 2009 Los Angeles Newspaper Group
Author: Phillip Zonkel, Staff Writer


LONG BEACH - The City Council passed a motion Tuesday night moving 
toward the regulation of medical marijuana dispensaries.

By a 9 to 0 vote, the City Council requested a report within 60 days 
from City Attorney Robert Shannon that will address the feasibility, 
legality and enforcement of ordinances regarding medical marijuana 
collectives and cooperatives, which are also known as dispensaries or clubs.

The City Council wants the report to address eight considerations, 
including legal definitions of collectives; zoning criteria for the 
location and size of collectives within residential-zoned areas; the 
ability to prohibit any collective from being within 1,000 foot 
radius of schools, parks, licensed child care facilities or other 
collectives; an appropriate fee payable to the city prior to the 
dispensary receiving a permit.

Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga hopes regulating medical marijuana 
dispensaries will end the chronic of confusion of how they operate.

"We really need clarity on this matter," said Uranga. "Up until now, 
we have ignored the dispensaries with a 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' response.

"We want to know where these dispensaries are located and regulate 
where they can operate," she said.

She said that she doesn't want to restrict access for medical 
marijuana patients.

Since Long Beach has not established its own standards for the 
dispensaries, nobody really knows how many exist or where they 
operate, said Uranga, who estimated 37 to 40 may exist in the city.

Around 25 such clubs operate, according to the Web sites and

Dispensaries are supposed to operate under guidelines set forth last 
August by the state attorney general.

Those guidelines describe not only what cooperatives and collectives 
are, but also state they must be nonprofit operations, obtain a state 
seller's permit, maintain membership records and verify member 
status, prohibit distribution and sales to nonmembers and provide 
adequate security ensuring patients are safe and surrounding homes or 
businesses are not impacted by nuisance activity such as loitering or crime.

Collectives remain illegal under federal law, but U.S. Attorney 
General Eric Holder has said as long as they follow state law, 
dispensaries will not be raided by federal law enforcement agents.

Local dispensary operators and managers are in favor of the 
regulations, saying they want to operate a legitimate businesses.

The best example why regulations are needed is found in Long Beach's 
back yard, says Aaron Smith, California policy director with the 
Marijuana Policy Project, which lobbys for marijuana regulation.

"Los Angeles has a proliferation of facilities and it's hard for the 
city to track where they are operating," Smith said.

Los Angeles might have as many as 600 dispensaries, but nobody knows 
for sure, acccording to published reports.

"It's up to city's to permit them and provide regulatory framework," 
he said. "It's not everyday you see and industry standing up and 
saying, Regulate us." 
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