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Halt put on pot dispensaries

FOR THE RECORD: Scott Alan should have been identified as a former chairman of the HIV Advisory Committee in a story, “Halt put on pot dispensaries" in the Feb. 27 issue.***

Laguna Beach is slowly moving in the direction of allowing marijuana dispensaries.

The City Council imposed a 45-day moratorium on marijuana dispensary permits on Feb. 17, but directed city staff to study how to regulate and permit such facilities in the future.

The city has been struggling with the topic of marijuana dispensaries for several years. Three sites have closed down or moved out "” including one with a storefront on South Coast Highway near Diamond Street, which was the target of a DEA raid in October.


Marijuana use is illegal under federal law, but is legal by prescription in California. The conflicting laws have resulted in confusion "” and arrests of people using the drug with a doctor’s permission. Marijuana is prescribed to alleviate symptoms in cancer patients and those with HIV or AIDS.

In 2006, the City Council rejected changes to the city’s business license ordinance that would have outlawed issuing licenses to marijuana facilities or cannabis clubs, citing “compassion" for those who use it medicinally.

Scott Alan, who chairs the city’s HIV Advisory Committee, said he believes it is time for the city to take steps to allow walk-in marijuana dispensaries.

“I’m disappointed" that the council imposed a moratorium, Alan said. “They should have had a plan by now for a dispensary in town."


A dispensary has been proposed at 777 S. Coast Hwy., and city officials decided it was time to study how to regulate marijuana dispensaries, according to a city staff report.

In the meantime, the moratorium will halt any more permit applications for such facilities. The moratorium could be extended to two years by council action.

In a related development, State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) proposed on Monday that marijuana be legalized for use by adults, and regulated like alcohol or cigarettes, an idea with which Alan agrees.

“It should be legalized and taxed like alcohol or cigarettes, which are more dangerous than marijuana," Alan said.

According to Ammiano, it is estimated that marijuana could be the state’s largest cash crop, at $14 billion a year, nearly twice the combined value of the state’s No. 2 and No. 3 crops, vegetables ($5.7 billion) and grapes ($2.6 billion), making it a potential cash cow for state tax revenues.

Under Ammiano’s proposal, marijuana could be purchased and used only by those 21 or older.

Alan said he plans to bring up the marijuana dispensary issue at the HIV Advisory Committee’s next meeting.

The group will meet at 4 p.m. Thursday in Conference Room A at City Hall, 505 Forest Ave.