LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles lawmakers backed a host of new regulations for the marijuana industry Wednesday, paving the way for the hotly anticipated business of recreational pot.
The unanimous vote was a landmark step for the biggest city in California as the state prepares to start issuing permits to grow, sell, test and distribute recreational marijuana. Despite a slew of concerns about the exact details of the plan, the Los Angeles City Council voted 12-0 for the regulations, which now go to the mayor for his approval.
The elaborate rules reflect a tug of war at City Hall over the hopes and fears for the soon-to-be-legalized industry. They have been a prime focus of Council President Herb Wesson, who said Wednesday that cities across the country will be looking to Los Angeles as an example.
"We are L.A. We are leaders. We take on the tough issues," Wesson said. Before the vote, he urged lawmakers, "Let's make history."
The City Council has been eager to pull in new revenue from the marijuana business, which is expected to generate more than $50 million in tax revenue for the city next year. California will start licensing the recreational pot industry in January, aiming to bring an illicit market out of the shadows.
The council also has vowed to make sure that disadvantaged communities that were hit hardest by the war on drugs can now cash in, a quest near and dear to political progressives. At the Wednesday meeting, Councilman Curren Price lamented that the criminalization of cannabis "unfairly targeted communities of color like the one I represent."
"I'm ready to level the playing field so that everyone has a fair shot at reaping the rewards of this booming industry," Price said. "Because we shouldn't just be rolling out the red carpet to those individuals with deep pockets or powerful corporations."
Under its "social equity" program, the city will give priority processing and other assistance to marijuana business applicants who are poor and were previously convicted of some marijuana crimes -- or who have lived in areas that were heavily affected by cannabis arrests.
Before the vote, Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson declared that "we will shut down one of the major fronts of the war on drugs."
While other cities have shied away from marijuana, "this is a city that is ready to make the jump and not just put their toe in the water," said Brad Rowe, an adjunct professor at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and CEO of the research and consulting firm Botec Analysis.