California Law Sets Limits on Pot Shops near Schools

October 2, 2010 – Pot shops will have to keep their distance from schools in California after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill Thursday in response to the proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries.

The governor signed into law a prohibition on medical marijuana shops from opening within 600 feet of schools.

AB 2650 was backed by law enforcement groups including the California Police Chiefs’ Assn. and the California State Sheriffs’ Assn.

The state law by Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan’s (D-Alamo) was inspired by an ordinance that took effect in June in Los Angeles, which requires dispensaries to be at least 1,000 feet from other dispensaries and sites and schools, parks and libraries, and prohibits them from being across a street or alley from residential properties.

The L.A. ordinance, which also requires of shops opened after a 2007 moratorium, has resulted in the city determining that three-quarters of the 169 marijuana dispensaries there are ineligible to remain open.

Buchanan initially proposed that the state also banned the pot shops from 1,000 feet from parks, libraries, religious institutions, and other marijuana businesses, but scaled her measure back to win passage in the Legislature.

“We believe that this bill is reasonable and balances our responsibility to our youth and schools with the need for patients to purchase medical marijuana,’’ Buchanan said.

Even limited to the proximity to schools, the bill was opposed by the Marijuana Project, a group that supports medical marijuana availability.

The measure “would shut down safe access for thousands of seriously ill patients who rely on medical marijuana collectives for their medicine,’’ the group wrote to lawmakers. “This is at odds with the will of the California electorate, which overwhelmingly supports medical marijuana and patients’ rights to access it in an open, safe, and legal environment.’’

By Patrick McGreevy.

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