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The City of Los Angeles’ medical marijuana ordinance moved closer to being enacted when a report was submitted to the city council last Friday on the fees dispensaries will be required to pay to conduct business.
The report by the city’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) outlined the fees that will be required by the Department of Building and Safety, the Office of the City Clerk and the Los Angeles Police Department. Owners of medical marijuana dispensaries will be required to pay a $151 charge per person for a criminal background check that must be performed for all employees. The fee must be paid to the LAPD, and no persons with felonies will be allowed to work at the dispensaries.
Additional charges include a $374 registration fee to be paid to the city clerk when applying for a license to operate a dispensary, which will also cover the costs of determining which dispensaries will be allowed to remain open once the ordinance takes effect. The city ordinance capped the number of dispensaries at 70, but may allow up to 128 for dispensaries operating before a 2007 moratorium which reapply. Part of the city clerk fee is for processing those applications.
In addition, dispensary owners will be required to pay an initial $688 to the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety when applying for a business license, and another $140 quarterly for building and safety inspections and updates.
Los Angeles City Councilman Ed Reyes, 1st District, said he is confident that the fees will be approved. Reyes, who has been overseeing the implementation of the medical marijuana ordinance, said it will likely take effect in May.
“The goal has been, and continues to be, to adopt a final ordinance that protects our communities, and at the same time recognizes the rights of those who require access to marijuana dispensaries for medical purposes,” Reyes said. “The collective fees detailed in the report are reasonable and get us closer to that goal.”
Monica Valencia, a deputy to Reyes, said the councilman is planning to hold a joint meeting of the Planning and Land Use Committee and the Budget and Finance Committee on March 24 to review the fees, after which they will be sent to the full city council. Valencia said while the incomplete ordinance was approved and signed by the mayor, procedural rules require that any amendments, such as the new fees, be reviewed again by the council committees, the full council and the mayor. She said the council has 30 days to review the report and make a decision after the committees make recommendations, and the mayor then has 10 days to sign the ordinance.
“We needed to approve [the fees] in order to move forward,” Valencia said. “The councilman is trying to move as quickly as possible.”
The ordinance requires a 1,000-foot buffer zone between residences, schools, religious institutions and other sensitive uses; having a security guard present; and making cash drops twice a day to make the dispensaries less of a target for robberies.
“Technically, the ordinance has been approved and is effective, it is just not operational,” Valencia added.
Once it is enacted, the dispensaries will have 10 days to resubmit an application to stay open, or must close. Representatives from the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office have said they plan to move quickly to enforce the ordinance. The process begins with the Department of Building Safety issuing an order to comply, and if the dispensary in question does not close within 30 days, legal proceedings can begin, City Attorney’s Office spokesman Frank Mateljan said.
On Monday, a group of dispensaries led by Dan Halbert, owner of the Rainforest Collective in Mar Vista, attempted to challenge the city’s ordinance. The group submitted signatures that would qualify a citywide initiative to be placed on the November ballot that would allow voters to determine whether the ordinance should stand. The City Clerk’s office is still verifying the signatures, according to Holly Wolcott, a spokesperson for the Office of the City Clerk, but it has been reported that the group fell short of the number of signatures required. Wolcott said no extension was issued to give the group more time to collect signatures. Halbert did not return calls for comment.
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