WeHo Must Change Zoning Regulations in Order to Regulate Weed

Medbox, vincent Mehdizadeh, marijuana vending, marijuana dispensaryThe first step in a speedy move to strengthen city regulation of local marijuana growers, vendors and deliverers is a proposal that will go before the West Hollywood Planning Commission on Thursday.

The commission will be asked to approve a proposal to ban commercial cannabis activities and medical marijuana collectives from residential areas while continuing to let qualified patients and their caregivers grow cannabis for their own medical use. The proposal also would prohibit deliveries of marijuana both within West Hollywood and to and from WeHo.

The City Council must make those changes in its zoning regulations by March 1 if it wants the city to retain the authority to issue licenses for growing medical marijuana. Otherwise that authority will be held solely by the State of California, which must also approve licenses granted by the city. Changes also must be made in WeHo’s business license ordinance.

Last October, Gov. Jerry Brown signed three bills collectively known as the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA). Among its many provisions, MMRSA requires that marijuana dispensaries and cultivators obtain a local license before seeking one from the state if the city or county has land use regulations or ordinances regulating or prohibiting the cultivation of marijuana. While West Hollywood does have laws regulating the growth and dispensing of marijuana, the municipal code does not prohibit the commercial cultivation of marijuana within residential zones or the delivery of marijuana within West Hollywood. There appears to be little commercial cultivation of marijuana in West Hollywood neighborhoods, where there are few if any large and open tracts of land. However the ban on delivery could affect companies such as Nestdrop, which has developed an app for ordering marijuana delivery on your smart phone and operates across the west side of greater Los Angeles..

A memo to the Council describing the proposed regulation notes that mobile dispensaries have been the targets of armed robbers seeking cash and drugs in both Los Angeles and Orange counties.

It also argues that growing cannabis inside buildings has resulted in damages that include “improper and dangerous electrical alternations and use, inadequate ventilation leading to mold and mildew, as well as an increase in the frequency of home-invasion robberies and similar crimes.

“Unlike indoor cultivation, exterior cultivation activities require large amounts of space and, if operated by a number of primary caregivers, collectives and cooperatives, may result in a large quantity of plants being cultivated on a single parcel of land. Given the limited quantity of vacant land and high property values in West Hollywood, large-scale the commercial cultivation is not likely to occur.”

The City of Los Angeles has an out from MMRSA. “Issuance of a state license or a determination of compliance with local law by the [state] shall in no way limit the ability of the City of Los Angeles to prosecute any person or entity for a violation of, or otherwise enforce, Proposition D … or the city’s zoning laws,” one of the MMRSA bills states.

The Planning Commission will meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the City Council Chambers at 625 N. San Vicente Blvd., south of Santa Monica.