Los Angeles is the medical marijuana dispensary capital of America. But, strangely, one of the most liberal cities in L.A. County, neighboring Santa Monica, has none.

Perhaps wisely, the Santa Monica City Council shut out weed shops until it could figure out how not to become like the city of L.A. — namely a place where more than 1,000 pot stores opened, most in defiance of local authorities.

Well, Santa Monica officials say now is the time:

Following a state Supreme Court decision in May that ruled cities can regulate pot shops pretty much as they see fit, Santa Monica started the process of allowing a few dispensaries in town.

See also: High Court Ruling That Cities Can Ban Pot Shops.

Santa Monica last week included the idea of allowing two dispensaries in town via its latest draft zoning ordinance.

The proposal, if approved, would strictly regulate the dispensaries' locations, security and hours of operation:

A maximum of 2 Medical Marijuana Dispensaries no larger than 2,500 square feet shall be permitted in the non-residential Zoning Districts within the Healthcare District. Medical Marijuana Dispensaries are prohibited within 500 feet of a Day Care Facility, park, school or library and 1,000 feet of another Dispensary. The distance shall be established on the date of application for the Conditional Use Permit.

Don't hold your breath, however.

City planner Paul Foley told us today that the draft zoning ordinance will undergo six public hearings before heading to the City Council for a final vote, which might not be until spring.

Still, he's hopeful.

Credit: 1cognito/Flickr

Credit: 1cognito/Flickr

He says the city has the advantage of seeing the best and worst of marijuana regulation by municipalities, and it has studied up to create language that should do the trick.

West Hollywood's own ordinance, which allows four dispensaries and has pretty much been a success in keeping out unregulated interlopers, was a model, Foley said.

“We based it on other cities' ordinances to see how they worked, and refined them for our own,” he said. “We think hopefully it will go through.”

The group Santa Monicans for Safe Access stated this over the weekend:

The City Council is to be praised for its visionary and considerate leadership to bring to residents an ordinance for safe access to medical marijuana (MMJ). SAMOSA will work thoughtfully with the City to ensure this is realized in a workable and considerate way respectful of the interests of the community. Working together, safe access to MMJ can be done in the best medical traditions of the City.

The next Planning Commission hearing, which will discuss the zoning plan, is Dec. 11.

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