Recreational pot: License applications begin in Los Angeles

Although recreational marijuana is now legal in California, Los Angeles officials said there are still some final steps required before sales will be allowed in the city.

And they warned that use of the drug comes with significant restrictions and rules.

"The use of marijuana needs to be done in a responsible manner that's consistent with the law,'' Los Angeles Police Department Assistant Chief Michel Moore said at a news conference at police headquarters.

"Just as people use alcohol, people use other types of substances that are lawfully allowed, the department will pay close attention to the use of marijuana in a vehicle, to a person who is driving impaired, to a person who is selling marijuana to a minor -- those are all illegal activities and the department will take aggressive action in enforcing the law,'' he said.

Recreational pot became legal in the state on New Year's Day, and some cities already have shops selling recreational pot with local permits and state-issued licenses.

Cat Packer, executive director of the Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation, said that next Monday would likely be the earliest date that some shops could make any legal recreational sales within the city's borders because L.A.'s new pot ordinances also require a city license and her department isn't accepting any applications until Wednesday.

Packer also said that initially her office will only process applications from existing businesses that have been operating as medical marijuana shops in compliance with 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.

Once the Prop D applications are processed, Packer said the city will begin processing other applications.

Packer also said the initial wave of shops that open for recreational sales will be doing so under a temporary license while the city fully processes their applications and does all the necessary background checks.

"There are a number of steps, this isn't an automatic conversion where businesses apply and then they are automatically granted this temporary approval, but most businesses who submit quality applications should be expected to have their temporary approval in a few weeks,'' Packer said.

When asked why L.A. was behind other cities in allowing recreational sales, Packer said because that L.A. is the largest city to allow pot sales, getting everything in order will take a little longer.

"We can't look to other cities and even other states to figure out what an appropriate timeline is,'' she said. "We're going to do this the Los Angeles way, and that means that we're going to have to do this responsibly, and if that means that we start this process a few days late, I'm perfectly
fine with that.''

Moore noted that while possession of marijuana is legal within the city and sales will soon be legal for some shops, there are significant restrictions on where the drug can be consumed, as it is limited to private property and cannot be used in a park, business or any public place.

"We are trying to communicate through today and additional means, both to the public and our officers, that it's not without governance, it's not without constraints,'' Moore said.

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