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Pot not the only issue, candidate says

Sue Lester, who owns a medicinal marijuana dispensary, says city finances and affordable housing must be addressed.

October 21, 2010|By Mona Shadia, mona.shadia@latimes.com

And that same kind of thinking is what's going to help her balance the city's budget, she said.

Lester said that if she's elected, she will not be able to bring on a marijuana ordinance and will have to recuse herself from any vote on the issue.

Lester started speaking up after her marijuana dispensary received a cease-and-desist order from Code Enforcement, she said.

Instead of closing her dispensary, she filed a lawsuit challenging the city's ban on medical marijuana collectives, then decided to run for council.

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"I wanted to open a place that was in a nice area, that was safe, that people would feel comfortable to come to, and have the opportunity to talk to people and really explain what their situation was and what type of help they were looking for," she said of the dispensary she opened in July 2009 on Fair Drive and Harbor Boulevard — not far from City Hall.

The city issued cease-and-desist orders for several dispensaries and raided others that were found to be operating outside the guidelines of the 1996 California voter-approved Compassionate Use Act, which allows those with serious and chronic illnesses such as cancer to use medical marijuana with a doctor's permission.

"Nobody ever came to me to ask me if I'm operating under state law, but they investigated everybody, and I imagine they found that I was operating under state law, and that's why they didn't raid me like they raided others," Lester said.

The council recently amended its ordinance, which will now allow dispensaries as long as no more than three people are involved in the operations. The city still considers the presence of medical marijuana dispensaries a misdemeanor and can issue citations.

Lester called the recent council action a positive first step.

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