L.A. lawmakers are close to setting ground rules for marijuana industry

Los Angeles lawmakers took another step Monday toward imposing regulations that would limit where and how marijuana businesses can operate as California legalizes the sale of recreational pot.

The elaborate regulations, which have been repeatedly tweaked at a string of city hearings, lay out the ground rules for what is expected to be one of the hottest marijuana markets in the country.

“You don’t have a lot of opportunities to make history — and that’s what we’re doing here,” City Council President Herb Wesson said as a committee of lawmakers backed the proposed rules.

The City Council is slated to vote on the regulations Wednesday.

Under the proposed rules, pot shops would be restricted to specific commercial and industrial zones, and be barred from opening within 700 feet of schools, public parks and areas zoned as open space, public libraries, daycare centers, alcohol and drug treatment facilities, and permanent supportive housing, as well as from other marijuana retailers.

Other marijuana businesses — including growers and manufacturers — would be limited to industrial zones and prohibited within 600 feet of schools. And marijuana manufacturers that use volatile solvents would be barred from within 200 feet of residential areas.

L.A. will also cap the maximum number of marijuana shops, manufacturers and other kind of cannabis business allowed in each community area based on population ratios. Because the complicated rules have been repeatedly adjusted, planning officials have yet to provide estimates of the total number of marijuana businesses that could eventually open.

The proposed rules also set out how marijuana businesses will be inspected, impose requirements for security and video surveillance, and prohibit marijuana or alcohol consumption on site, among many other restrictions.

Existing marijuana shops that have been operating under an earlier set of city restrictions, Proposition D, will be first in line for city licensing. Pot growers and manufacturers that have been supplying those shops and meet other requirements can, in turn, get “temporary approval” while they are applying for city licenses.

Los Angeles is also pressing forward with a program that would provide extra assistance to would-be marijuana entrepreneurs whose communities were hit hardest by the war on drugs. Under the “social equity” program, the city would help poor people who were previously convicted of some marijuana crimes or have lived in areas that were heavily affected by cannabis arrests.

Eligible business applicants would get priority processing and other assistance as they pursue city licenses. For every license the city hands out to a regular marijuana retailer, it plans to give out two licenses to “social equity” participants; for every license it hands out to other kinds of marijuana businesses, it will hand out one to a “social equity” applicant, according to the proposed rules.

But the city would prohibit people who committed violent crimes and other serious offenses from getting marijuana licenses for a decade after their convictions, and bar other classes of convicts, including people who distributed marijuana to minors, for five years after their conviction dates.

The city could also deny marijuana licenses to felons whose crimes involved illegal drugs other than marijuana, but lawmakers decided Monday to let city staffers and a newly formed commission decide whether such applicants should be barred on a case-by-case basis. Activists who advocate for the formerly incarcerated had argued that it would be unfair to block them.

emily.alpert@latimes.com

Twitter: @AlpertReyes

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