LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Los Angeles City Council approved an ordinance on Tuesday that will shut down hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries that recently opened in America’s second-largest city.
The statute, passed on a 9-3 vote, ultimately would limit the number of licensed dispensaries to 70 and require them to be at least 1,000 feet from schools, public parks, libraries or churches.
Rather than imposing a similar buffer zone around homes, the measure would bar marijuana dispensaries from being located next door to, across the street, or across an alley from residential properties.
Los Angeles has some 1,000 dispensaries operating under a 1996 California law that decriminalized cannabis for medical use -- the first U.S. state to do so -- and a 2003 ballot measure that allowed pot to be cultivated and distributed to prescription-holding patients through nonprofit collectives.
But some city officials and residents complained that things have gotten out of control, with many pot shops operating as commercial businesses that cater as much to recreational drug users as to cancer patients.
In 2007, the city imposed a temporary moratorium on dispensaries, but a loophole in the measure has enabled hundreds more to open since then.
The bulk of those opened last year after U.S. President Barack Obama reversed a Bush administration policy and ended federal raids on dispensaries in states where medical marijuana had been legalized.
Controversy over pot shops has been less intense in other cities, like San Francisco and Oakland. In northern California towns like Arcata and Eureka, where marijuana has long been part of the social fabric and local economy, illicit growers have reportedly stepped up production to meet rising demand generated by the spread of clinics around the state.
Besides capping the number of dispensaries in Los Angeles, the new ordinance imposes new restrictions on them.
It limits hours of operations to between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m., imposes stringent security measures and requires them to operate as nonprofit collectives, with each patient limited to having cannabis prescriptions filled from just one dispensary.
Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Stacey Joyce
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