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By legalizing recreational marijuana sales, LA will ‘set the tone for the rest of the country’

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Recreational pot sales will be legal in California in January

Medical marijuana stand
Sales of marijuana for recreational—not just medical—uses would be legal January 1 under new rules passed by the LA City Council Wednesday.
Tero Vesalainen | Shutterstock

Los Angeles is well on its way to legalizing recreational marijuana after the City Council unanimously approved Wednesday a framework to regulate sales of the drug.

Once signed into law by Mayor Eric Garcetti, the new rules will make LA the largest city in the nation to allow the growth and sale of recreational marijuana—something council president Herb Wesson emphasized prior to Wednesday’s vote.

“Today is our moment to begin to set the tone for the rest of the country,” he said. “We are a big city. We do big stuff. That’s who we are. That’s how we roll.”

The new regulations, which councilmember Mitch O’Farrell stressed are “still a work in progress,” will allow businesses to apply for licenses for the cultivation and sale of marijuana within city limits. Businesses will also have to get licensed by the state’s new Bureau of Cannabis Control.

There will be plenty of limits on the number and type of licenses available within the city. Under the regulations approved by the City Council, retail establishments will only be allowed in areas zoned for retail or industrial use. They will be totally banned within 700 feet of schools, public parks, or drug treatment centers.

A map issued earlier this year by the city planning department shows exactly where dispensaries will be permitted to open once the new rules go into effect.

As the Los Angeles Times points out, the restrictions should limit the number of stores selling marijuana to about 390; up to 336 growers and 520 manufacturers would also be permitted.

Under current rules, a total of 191 dispensaries are permitted to sell marijuana for medical purposes, but hundreds more are operating illegally, according to the city controller.

LA’s new regulations were spurred by the passage of Proposition 64 last year, a statewide ballot initiative that legalized recreational marijuana use but left it up to cities to decide how to regulate sales.

Los Angeles will also be among the first California cities to establish a legal framework for selling the drug once sales officially become legal at the state level starting January 1.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that cannabis businesses would be unable to operate in Warner Center, Playa Vista, and the areas around USC and LA Live. In fact, businesses will be allowed to operate in those areas under the terms of community-specific guidelines.