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How Many Dispensaries Do We Need?

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This week looks like it will finally be the moment that Los Angeles's City Council issues a new set of regulations for medical pot dispensaries. A big question they are facing is, how many will they allow?

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For different reasons, both enemies and friends of medical pot in general are disturbed that what they perceive as too many "unregulated" pot dispensaries arose in the wake of the city's failed, and court-overturned, "moratorium" on any new ones.

The Los Angeles Times reports on the "how many?" debate:

Councilman Jose Huizar, whose district includes Eagle Rock, one of the first neighborhoods to recoil from the influx of dispensaries, has suggested a cap of 70. The proposal is one of more than three dozen amendments the council will weigh when it resumes debate on its proposed medical marijuana ordinance.

"Since this is a new frontier for the city to engage in, we want to make sure that we can do everything that's possible to monitor them," Huizar said. "We've got to take this in incremental steps, and I'd rather start with a low number."....

Cities have limited the number of dispensaries in two ways. The most common is to require them to be a certain distance from places that children frequent, such as schools and libraries. That's the approach in the proposed city ordinance. Less common, but gaining in popularity, is a cap on the number of shops.

The cap option seems to make sense to most councilpeople, and numbers from Huizar's 70 to medical advocates 400 have been floated at the past week's City Council meetings. But any hard and fast cap is troublesome to some medical pot activists:

"The problem with Los Angeles is that it is so different from any other city in the state in terms of its geographical size and population that I'm not sure a cap makes any sense," said Kris Hermes, a spokesman for Americans for Safe Access....

Huizar's propossal would include the controversial notion that the operators in each defined area of the city be chosen at random from applicants.

Of course, many find the whole idea of serious political discussion of medical pot laughable or offensive, as per this Mayor Sam post that links City Council debate on medical pot with old Cheech and Chong movies. Still, this other Mayor Sam post, by a different writer, presents a sympathetic account of local mayoral candidate in 2009 and medical pot activist Craig X. Rubin's arrest and trial on medical pot related charges.

City of Angles has been on the medical pot debate as it has developed, from June until last week.

(Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)

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