With California preparing to usher in an era of legal recreational weed on January 1, lawmakers across the state have scrambled to find suitable regulations regarding the plant. However, on Wednesday, the state took one of it’s biggest steps in procuring a reasonable set of bylaws ahead of the deadline, as its biggest city unveiled their own preliminary set of marijuana regulations.
The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved the proposed set of regulations, 12 to 0, after months of meetings regarding the sale, growth and distribution of recreational cannabis ahead of the January 1 deadline. The set of provisions will now go to the mayor for final approval.
Council President Herb Wesson believes LA can provide a template for other cities across the country clamoring for their own set of guidelines.
“We are LA. We are a big city. We do big stuff, that’s who we are, that’s how we roll. And there are cities throughout this country that are looking at us today,” Wesson said.
Despite the unanimous vote, however, there were some inevitable concerns regarding the provisions. Cannabis industry groups have taken umbrage with some of the stricter sanctions being enforced, while some neighborhood groups believe the regulations aren’t tight enough.
First off, the set of rules approved by lawmakers would create restrictions on pot shops and cannabis-related businesses within each neighborhood. Mirroring some pre-existing regulations in the alcohol industry, there will also be requirements on how far pot businesses can be located from “sensitive sites.” This includes schools, child care centers, alcohol and drug treatment centers and even other cannabis shops.
Under the new rules, pot shops must operate at least 700 feet away from “sensitive sites,” while non-retail businesses, such as growers and manufacturers, would be restricted to industrial zones at least 600 feet away from schools.
Additionally, manufactures utilizing volatile solvents would be banned from within 200 feet of residential areas.
As it stands, there can be no more than 390 pot shops, 336 growers and 520 marijuana manufacturers licensed across the city. However, detractors argue there is no need for such a cap, as the aforementioned zoning restrictions create an”organic cap,” regardless.
The set of rules also included a procedure for provisional licenses for growers and manufacturers, guidelines on how marijuana businesses will be inspected, set goals for local hiring, and the banishment of cannabis or alcohol consumption on-site, amongst others.
In conjunction with the new set of regulations, the City Council is introducing a “social equity” program geared towards helping people convicted of low-level weed-related crimes and residents in low-income areas open their own cannabis-related businesses.
“It’s true that this measure is not going to undo the harms that have been inflicted in the past. However, I think it will provide a framework for a more equitable and honest approach to this industry as it rolls out,” said Councilman Curren Price.
While the guidelines are set for the January deadline, Wesson admitted there are several issues that need to be worked out in the future. He noted the council will meet in January to discuss refining and enhancing the guidelines.
One of the largest areas of contention surrounding the guidelines was the on-site consumption of cannabis. The current set of rules for LA would not permit consumption in pot shops, despite state law allowing it. Wesson said the city council will continue to discuss the topic in future meetings.
Despite some of the flaws in the guidelines, most in the industry are mostly pleased by the set of rules. Ricardo Mendoza, who manages a marijuana shop in Culver City, believes the set of rules brings a sense of legitimacy to the business.
“It sounds like they really want to do this the right way,” Mendoza said