LA City Council approves rules ahead of legal marijuana date

- A Los Angeles City Council committee approved several proposed ordinances and regulations for the cannabis industry Monday in an effort to have all of the city's policies on the books ahead of the drug becoming legal for recreational purposes on Jan. 1.

The items approved by the Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee outline proposed rules on licensing, operating a cannabis business and where they are allowed to be located.

The proposed regulations also include a procedure for provisional licenses for growers and manufacturers, which was not included in an earlier draft of one of the ordinances but was added by the council last month after some leaders in the industry expressed concern suppliers could be driven out of business because of a possible delay in them getting licensed.

While the city has allowed retail medical marijuana shops to operate in the city for years, it has never expressly allowed cultivators or manufacturers to operate, and this could leave them without a license come Jan. 1 due to an expected delay in the city processing applications without a system for a provisional license.

The proposed regulations also would create a "social equity" program aimed at increasing minority participation in the marijuana industry.

Another amendment that was added in October and approved by the committee would create limitations on how many cannabis businesses could be located in each neighborhood similar to the regulations imposed on the alcohol industry.

Marijuana retailers would also have to be located at least 800 feet from a school, public park, public library, alcoholism or drug abuse recovery or treatment facility, and any other cannabis retailer.

California voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana last November, effective Jan. 1, 2018.

The legalized industry could fetch the city more than $100 million annually in new tax revenue for a city with a budget that topped $9 billion last fiscal year, and in March city voters approved Measure M, which sets up regulatory measures for the city's industry.

Once fully implemented, Measure M will replace Proposition D, which was approved in 2013 by city voters and limited the number of dispensaries within Los Angeles city limits to 135 -- the number of dispensaries operating before Sept. 14, 2007.

The guidelines forwarded by the committee gives priority licensing to existing shops that received a business tax registration certificate after 2014 and that are operating in compliance with the limited immunity and tax provisions of Proposition D.

They also would create grandfathering provisions allowing existing medical marijuana dispensaries in compliance with Proposition D and up to date on taxes to continue in their current location.

On-site consumption would be allowed by state law starting in 2018, if the local city allows it. City Council President Herb Wesson said previously that concerns over a ban in a draft ordinance of on-site consumption would be addressed later as the city studies the issue.

The committee also added an amendment that would extend the provisions of Proposition D to April 1, 2018, in what Wesson's spokeswoman Vanessa Rodriguez said was a precautionary measure in case all of the needed regulations are not in place by Jan. 1.

However, the precautionary measure does appear to be just that, as the council is on pace to have all the needed laws and regulations for the industry approved before the new year. The items should come before the council on Nov. 28 for a full discussion and hearing before being voted on in early December, she said.

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