After a more than 2-hour hearing on Thursday, September 14, the Los Angeles City Planning Commission voted unanimously to support a new set of regulations to govern the location of recreational marijuana sales, cultivation and other cannabis related businesses when such commerce becomes legal statewide in 2018. (This is just one of a number of new ordinances that will regulate cannabis sales in the city.)
As the Buzz reported last week, the defining characteristic of the proposed location ordinance would be an 800-foot buffer zone between cannabis business locations and “sensitive uses” such as schools, libraries, parks, drug and alcohol treatment facilities and other marijuana-related businesses.
At Thursday’s meeting, speakers during public comments spoke both in favor of the proposed buffer zone, and in favor of alternate distances, both greater and less than currently proposed. Those those in favor of looser regulations made particularly impassioned pleas that the 800-foot limit would be prohibitively restrictive, with many unintended consequences such as long lines and congestion at the few legal locations, as well as concentration of ownership in those locations in the hands of a privileged few. (A representative of the NORML cannabis advocacy group contended, for example, that the lone legal sales location in the city of Venice would be along pricey Abbott-Kinney Blvd., where rents can exceed $2 million per year.)
During the hearing, other speakers made requests for either stricter or more lenient rules on the number of marijuana plants people can grow outdoors for personal use, and different zones where cultivation would and wouldn’t be allowed. There were also concerns expressed on rules for where consumption of cannabis products will or won’t be allowed, and hours of sales operations…though those issues are not covered in the location ordinance (they will be dealt with in another forthcoming ordinance, which addresses operating rules for cannabis businesses).
After listening to the extensive testimony, the Commission decided to reinstate language from an earlier draft of the ordinance, which specified certain grandfathering terms for medical marijuana dispensaries legalized under Proposition D, specifically supported the proposed 800-foot limit from the sensitive uses listed above, reaffirmed a proposed personal cultivation limit of six outdoor plants, and requested that the ordinance include a clause mandating review of the location rules every four years.
Speaking just before the vote at the end of the meeting, Planning Commission Chair David Ambroz noted that the Commission is “starting slow” and cautiously with its regulatory scheme, but may be willing to extend “additional rights and freedoms” for cannabis businesses as the industry matures over time. He also clarified, during the hearing and in response to queries on the subject, that the city will not be issuing Conditional Use Permits for cannabis sales, as it does with alcohol sales, and will instead rely on licensing and policy (such as the 800-foot sensitive use limit) to regulate cannabis businesses in the city.
From here, the proposed regulations now move to the City Council, which will consider them soon. Although the City Council’s vote would usually be the final word on the subject, however, Ambroz and the CPC also requested – which they are allowed to do in certain circumstances – that the CPC be given another chance to review the proposed ordinance if the City Council makes any “substantial changes” to the rules as currently proposed.