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Medical Marijuana Dispensaries to Be Allowed under Proposed Santa Monica Zoning Law

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

June 19, 2015 -- After years of debating whether medical marijuana dispensaries have a place in Santa Monica, the City Council is set to approve two as part of a new zoning ordinance that will go before the Council on June 23.

Medical Marijuana in Santa Monica image If the new zoning law is approved, as expected, interested parties have 30 days to apply for conditional use permits to set up medical marijuana dispensaries in the bayside city.

Still, there would be strict rules set under the zoning ordinance for the shops, which would need to be located at least 600 feet from childcare centers, parks, schools, libraries, social service centers and other dispensaries.

Each shop can be up to 2,500 square feet, with no more than 15 percent of their floor space used to grow marijuana.

In addition, the dispensaries can only operate within set areas along Santa Monica  and Wilshire boulevards east of Lincoln, said David Martin, director of Planning and Community Development for Santa Monica.

Santa Monica Mayor Kevin McKeown was strongly supportive.

“Just yesterday I got an email from a wheelchair-bound resident in her 70s, grateful that having dispensaries nearby will make possible access to her prescribed marijuana for pain, where nothing else works as effectively for her,” he said.

“We authorized medical marijuana dispensaries, not recreational, and yes, there is a need in our community,” McKeown said. “We have strictly limited the locations to just two, and the new code requires stringent controls and security.”

Santa Monica held out for several years on allowing medical marijuana dispensaries, which have proliferated in Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Malibu and elsewhere.

Officials, particularly police, worried that the largely cash businesses would attract crime. Some were concerned that the dispensaries would be frequented by customers who didn’t really need the drug for medicinal reasons.

Three years ago, the City Council headed the concerns and passed a moratorium on permits for dispensaries.

Last May, two residents filed initiative paperwork to allow two dispensaries in the city, but no signatures were filed by the end of the 180-day deadline.

In December, proponents rallied and said they would try again.  Santa Monicans for Safe Assess said they would start circulating petitions at the beginning of the year to allow the dispensaries.

According to Sarah Gorman, Santa Monica’s city clerk, a notice of intent to collect signatures was filed but withdrawn in April.

Instead of through a ballot initiative, the operation of the dispensaries could now be approved as part of the City’s long-debated new zoning code, with officials crafting the provision with enough restrictions to address previous concerns, officials said.

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