LOS ANGELES (CN) – The Los Angeles City Council approved the basis of a plan to regulate a legal cannabis industry Tuesday, after a discussion on zoning, the war on drugs and the city’s failure to regulate commercial medical marijuana dispensaries.
The city attorney’s office will review the items approved by the city council, which looks to establish fees on cannabis businesses and a thorough review of what has worked for other cities and states that already have a legal marijuana industry.
“This is a piece of work we’re very proud of,” said Council President Herb Wesson.
Councilman Paul Krekorian, the lone dissenter, said he had concerns about a proposed social equity program that he said would allow convicted drug dealers to jump the line to apply for businesses licenses. Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson said the social equity component of the plan will confront the disproportionate number of black and Latino residents who are targeted over marijuana use.
“If we do right here in Los Angeles, we can set the stage for it to be done all over the United States,” Harris-Dawson said.
Krekorian also noted this was one of the first opportunities the city council had to debate the proposed rules and regulations since voters gave city leaders the power to regulate and tax cannabis in 2016.
He recommended a hold on the vote for further discussion. And several council members shared his concern: Councilwoman Nury Martinez, whose district includes Van Nays and Sun Valley, said the city failed to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries in the past, and it took several years for her constituents to recover.
“My district was inundated with illegal operations,” Martinez said. She also noted communities of color often become the epicenters for marijuana businesses, which occurred after voters passed Measure D in 2013.
Cat Packer, executive director of LA’s department of cannabis regulation, discussed how applications will be processed and how some businesses already operating under previous regulations will be offered limited immunity while their applications are processed.
The city council’s plan next heads to the city attorney, which will address employee standards and advertising in the cannabis industry.
Several council members said their top priority was defining the land use component. Councilman Joe Buscaino from District 15, which includes Wilmington and the ports of Los Angeles, said the majority of indoor cultivation would take place in his district because of its large industrial areas.
“We really need to give a serious look for these impacted communities,” Buscaino said.
Resident Amy Fall, who plans to operate a cannabis business, said she’s been waiting on the sidelines for the city to lay out its plan for the industry. She said she’s operated a marijuana business before, and plans to apply for a permit.
Donnie Anderson, co-founder of the Southern California Coalition, applauded the city council’s move forward.
“It’s a beautiful thing that we’ve come this far with the process,” Anderson, who owns and operates a medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles, said.