Sharp Limits on L.A. MMJ Businesses Approved

May 22, 2013

A bal­lot mea­sure to sharply limit the num­ber of med­ical mar­i­juana dis­pen­saries in the Los Ange­les was approved by vot­ers Tues­day night. The mea­sure won with 62% of the vote, accord­ing to the lat­est results. Propo­si­tion D would reduce the num­ber of pot shops in the city from about 700 now to about 130 by allow­ing only those that opened before the adop­tion of a failed 2007 city mora­to­rium on new dis­pen­saries to remain open. A rival ini­tia­tive, Mea­sure F, which would have allowed an unlim­ited num­ber of dis­pen­saries to oper­ate, failed. Both mea­sures would raise taxes on med­ical mar­i­juana sales 20%. Yami Bolanos, a Propo­si­tion D sup­porter who opened Pure­Life Alter­na­tive Well­ness Cen­ter in 2006, cried with hap­pi­ness as the first elec­tion results came in, say­ing she felt as though years of uncer­tainty about the future of med­ical mar­i­juana in the city were com­ing to an end. “Vot­ers had the heart to stand up for the patients like the city coun­cil never did,” Bolanos said. City Coun­cil­man Bill Rosendahl, a can­cer patient and med­ical mar­i­juana user who backed Propo­si­tion D, said the mea­sure “takes us out of chaos.” He said the dis­pen­saries that have been in the city since 2007 have showed that they are good actors. “They have lived with us,” he said. Back­ers of Mea­sure F, which called for addi­tional reg­u­la­tions on dis­pen­saries such as city audits and tests of cannabis for tox­ins, said they weren’t ready to give up. David Welch, an attor­ney who sup­ported that mea­sure, said he was pre­pared to sue if Propo­si­tion D was declared the win­ner. He said the propo­si­tion was uncon­sti­tu­tional because it favored dis­pen­saries based on an arbi­trary date. He also pre­dicted that Propo­si­tion D would be dif­fi­cult to enforce, say­ing that many shops that opened after 2007 prob­a­bly would con­tinue to oper­ate until the city iden­ti­fies them and orders them closed. “The city has no idea who qual­i­fies and who doesn’t,” Welch said. The con­tentious cam­paign over how to reg­u­late med­ical mar­i­juana shops divided the city’s dis­pen­saries, employ­ees and cus­tomers, as well as the city coun­cil. Mea­sure F sup­port­ers warned that Propo­si­tion D would cre­ate a monop­oly for older shops and allow the rise of “pot super­stores.” Back­ers of Propo­si­tion D, includ­ing a coali­tion of older shops and a labor union that has orga­nized work­ers at many of them, cau­tioned that Mea­sure F could lead to thou­sands of new dis­pen­saries. A third mea­sure, Ini­tia­tive Ordi­nance E, would have per­mit­ted only the older shops to remain open but with­out rais­ing taxes. It was put on the bal­lot by a coali­tion of older shops and the dis­pen­sary employ­ees union, but that coali­tion shifted its sup­port to Propo­si­tion D after the city coun­cil voted to put that mea­sure on the bal­lot. The stakes were raised this month when the Cal­i­for­nia Supreme Court upheld the right of cities to ban dis­pen­saries. Sup­port­ers of both ini­tia­tives warned that if vot­ers failed to pass one of the bal­lot mea­sures, the city would be left with no law reg­u­lat­ing med­ical mar­i­juana and might be tempted to enact a total ban. The city coun­cil attempted such a ban last year, vot­ing 14 to 0 to out­law over-the-counter sales of mar­i­juana while allow­ing small groups of patients to grow the drug for their own use. It reversed the action after the coali­tion of older dis­pen­saries and union work­ers qual­i­fied a mea­sure for the bal­lot that would have repealed the ban. At least one city coun­cil mem­ber, Jose Huizar, has spo­ken of revis­it­ing the ban now that cities have been given the author­ity to out­law dis­pen­saries. L.A. has strug­gled for years to reg­u­late dis­pen­saries, in large part because of con­tra­dic­tory court rul­ings. The city is bat­tling more than 60 law­suits over its ear­lier attempts at reg­u­la­tion. Los Ange­les vot­ers have gen­er­ally sup­ported the avail­abil­ity of med­ical mar­i­juana. In 1996, Cal­i­for­nia became the first state to legal­ize the med­i­c­i­nal use of pot, although sub­se­quent state laws failed to make explicit how the drug should be dis­trib­uted. In 2011, L.A. vot­ers approved a bal­lot mea­sure to tax sales. Still, a USC Price/Los Ange­les Times poll con­ducted this month found strong sup­port for more reg­u­la­tion of pot shops, with 61% of respon­dents say­ing they felt the city should reg­u­late dis­pen­saries more than it cur­rently does. In con­trast, 13% said the city should reg­u­late less, and 19% said reg­u­la­tion should not change. The poll also found that 54% of vot­ers sup­ported a 20% tax increase on med­ical mar­i­juana sales and 33% opposed it. Many vot­ers con­fessed to con­fu­sion over the dif­fer­ences among the bal­lot mea­sures. “The pot stuff was hard,” said Sue Maberry, 64, of Sil­ver Lake. She voted yes on Mea­sure F because she believed Propo­si­tion D would cre­ate a monop­oly. Early returns also sug­gested vot­ers favored a mea­sure aimed at over­turn­ing Cit­i­zens United vs. Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion, the Supreme Court rul­ing that cor­po­ra­tions and unions have a 1st Amend­ment right to spend their money to influ­ence vot­ers. The mea­sure would “instruct” mem­bers of Con­gress from the Los Ange­les area to sup­port a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment to change the law, although the law­mak­ers would not be bound by it. Source: Los Ange­les Times (CA) Author: Kate Linthicum Pub­lished: May 22, 2013 Copy­right: 2013 Los Ange­les Times Con­tact: letters@​latimes.​com Web­site: http://​www​.latimes​.com/

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