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Whittier City Council Approves Cap of One on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

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WHITTIER - Six days after police raided two medical marijuana dispensaries, the City Council rejected pleas from advocates to allow more than one legal facility in Whittier.

The council on a 5-0 vote approved the new ordinance, capping the number of legal dispensaries at one.

About 25 people briefly picketed before the meeting and many of them spoke to the council, complaining about last week's raids and the new ordinance capping the number of dispensaries at one.

"We're not asking to flood this city with dispensaries," said Laura Kaplanian, owner of GreenReleaf Healing Center, 8645 Greenleaf Ave., that was one of two dispensaries shut down on May 18.

"We're asking not to cap it at one," Kaplanian said. "This is not for the money. It's for the patients."

Kaplanian also complained about the tactics the Whittier police used last week.

"Our rights were violated," she said. "We were terrified. They broke the door and shattered the glass. They shoved two men to the floor, one with a cane. Is that how you treat your residents? We're not animals. We're humans."

Councilman Joe Vinatieri said he resented the criticism.

"The reality is this is illegal under federal law and (you) criticize the Whittier Police Department?" Vinatieri said.

"I have great respect for these police officers," he said. "We need to remember something here. One of these dispensaries was across the street from East Whittier Middle School. The other dispensary was right next door to a church and down the street from another."

Whittier Police Chief Jeff Piper also has denied any impropriety and said the raids were launched because police believe the dispensaries were committing criminal violations, acting as for-profit organizations essentially selling drugs.

But officials from the two dispensaries have denied those charges, saying they have nonprofit status.

Whittier police as of Wednesday had not presented any case to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office for prosecution of the two shuttered dispensaries, said Whittier Police Spokesman Mike Dekowski.

Councilman Greg Nordbak said he was amazed at the criticism because Whittier is one of few cities that allows medical marijuana dispensaries.

"It kind of catches me off guard," Nordbak said. "The council in a 3-2 vote approved allowing them because of the need we feel to be compassionate."

Several residents said the cap of one is unfair.

"I was a caregiver until a month ago when I lost my father who had cancer," said Yolanda Chavez.

"When I was (a caregiver), I had to travel to West Los Angeles to get the medication he needed. Not all dispensaries are the same. I think the citizens of Whittier need more than one option."

City planning staff had recommended a cap of one based on the small number of Whittier residents holding state-authorized medical marijuana cards. Collier said that number is 22.

But Curtis Hedges said there were 610 Whittier residents who were members of the GreenReleaf Healing Center.

"How do you morally justify capping it at one?" Hedges asked.

Hedges also was concerned where people might have to go to get their marijuana for their medical conditions.

"I don't know if the city of Whittier is interested in providing a controlled atmosphere or would they prefer people going back on the streets?" he asked.

Councilman Bob Henderson defended the city's ordinance.

"In one of our local cities nearby, I was amazed to discover they have 16 dispensaries because they don't regulate them at all," Henderson said. "We're not going to allow that in our city. We've allowed one. If the need can be shown, they can bring it back to us."

Henderson also said that transportation shouldn't be an issue in Whittier because it has Dial-A-Ride.

News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: whittierdailynews.com
Author: Mike Sprague
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: Los Angeles Newspaper group
Website: Whittier City Council approves cap of one on medical marijuana dispensaries
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