Marijuana Dispensary In Carson Hopes To Avoid Ban


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Operators of new store say they check prescriptions and moratorium put in place last week should not be a problem.

When Chili's Grill & Bar opened in Carson last year, city officials predicted it would lead to a wave of nearby economic development.

This isn't what they had in mind.

Herbal Blessings, a medical marijuana dispensary, opened recently in the small commercial plaza across the street from Chili's.

The store isn't fully operational yet -- construction was still under way Thursday -- but it has already attracted a couple of patients every day, and the attention of code enforcement.

"We don't even do that much business for them to harass us like that," said Elise Bennett, the store manager. "We're not curb-selling or selling out the back door."

Dispensaries have been regulated nearly out of existence in most other South Bay cities. A Torrance dispensary was raided last year by federal agents. Two more were shut down last fall in Gardena, though they continue to fight City Hall for the right to operate. Most cities have issued moratoriums or banned dispensaries outright.

In fact, Carson is one of the last cities to take up the issue, because until now, no one has tried to open a dispensary in the city.

Last week, the City Council declared a 45-day moratorium while the city determines whether it wants to regulate dispensaries or ban them outright.

"We don't dispute that there is some legitimacy to having that service available," said Sheri Repp-Loadsman, the city's planning manager. "The question for Carson is whether we can provide adequate location and operational standards for such uses to locate in Carson."

Herbal Blessings applied for a business license to sell vitamins and natural herbs. Staffers went out to the storefront to investigate, and discovered that the shop is also selling medical marijuana, Repp-Loadsman said.

The license application is still pending, while the city sorts out its regulations.

"I don't think the moratorium will affect us," Bennett said Thursday. "We're running everything legitimately here."

Herbal Blessings sells marijuana, as well as marijuana-based salves and liniments, she said. Bennett said the dispensary verifies all prescriptions with the doctors who issued them.

California voters approved the Compassionate Use Act in 1996, making it legal for doctors to prescribe marijuana for specified ailments. But the federal government still considers marijuana to be a controlled substance, prompting drug enforcement agents to raid pot clubs throughout the state.

That hasn't stopped the entrepreneurs who have opened more and more dispensaries in recent years. Police agencies typically argue that marijuana can be easily obtained for nonmedical uses, and that they attract vagrancy and other criminal behavior.

Cities have leeway under their zoning power to ban dispensaries or allow them with certain conditions. Most have opted for a ban, but a few have allowed pre-existing dispensaries to stay, or even allowed new ones with some regulations.

"I would look for a total ban," Councilman Mike Gipson said. "I don't think we need to have something like that in the city of Carson. I think it sends the wrong message."

Newshawk: CoZmO -
Source: The Daily Breeze (CA)
Author: Gene Maddaus
Copyright: 2007
Website: The Daily Breeze -
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