California: L.A. Voters Vote To Cap Number of Marijuana Dispensaries
By Steve Elliott
The citizens of Los Angeles on Tuesday voted to regulate medical marijuana by passing Proposition D, one of three medical marijuana regulation measures on the ballot. The Proposition received 62.57 percent of the vote.
Proposition D caps the number of collectives at those who opened prior to 2007, about 130, raises the gross receipts tax from $50 to $60 per $1000 of gross receipts, and establishes the distances they must keep from schools, parks, one another and residential neighborhoods. It also requires that collectives be closed between 8 p.m. and 10 a.m., prohibits the consumption of marijuana on the premises and requires background checks on managers.
Unfortunately, the Proposition also does not allow for a new collective to receive a permit if one of the pre-2007 collectives closes.
Proposition D was supported by several members of the City Council, the Greater Los Angeles Collective Association (GLACA), the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), both Los Angeles mayoral candidates and the current city attorney and his challenger. Under the Proposition, organizations consisting of four or more people who cultivate, process, distribute or give away medical marijuana must obtain a license from the city.
Competing with Proposition D were Proposition E (which only received 34.55 percent of the vote), which also capped the number at those operating pre 2007 but did not establish any new tax (supporters of E threw their support to D towards the end of the campaign), and Proposition F (which received 40.88 percent of the vote), wouldn’t have limited the number of pot shops but put stringent controls such as audits and background checks on employees and also raised taxes.
The totals for all three Propositions add up to more than 100 percent because voters could vote for one, two, or all three of the measures.
“Los Angeles has finally adopted rules for medical marijuana distribution,” said Amanda Reiman, policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) in California. "The state of California still has not, fostering a bewildering patchwork of local regulations that confuse law enforcement and leave the burden of rule-making to local governments, many of which have banned medical marijuana dispensaries outright rather than take on the daunting task L.A. has struggled with for years."
As mentioned by Reiman, Los Angeles has been struggling to regulate its medical marijuana system for many years. The City Council passed an ordinance in 2010 to cut the number of shops from roughly 1,000 to 70. But numerous lawsuits were filed against the city by dispensaries and the ordinance was allowed to expire last year, leading to another surge in the number of collectives.
Last summer, the city approved a ban, but two months later repealed it after enough signatures were gathered to get a measure repealing the ban on the ballot.
As can be seen through the history of medical marijuana regulation in Los Angeles, although Proposition D was approved by voters, the implementation process still presents a long road ahead. Los Angeles and other cities in California might get some much needed assistance with their medical marijuana programs if the state level bills requiring the state to take on some of the burden of regulation are passed this session.
AB 473 was introduced by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano and is currently in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, and SB 439, introduced by Darryl Steinberg was recently approved by the Senate with a 22-12 vote. Both bills engage the state in the licensing and regulation of medical marijuana, including cultivation, manufacturing and sales.
Proposition 215 directed the state to work with communities in establishing medical marijuana regulations. The state has not stepped up to the plate, and, as a result, over 200 localities have banned dispensaries, many too overwhelmed and under resourced to take on this type of regulation.
Even large metropolitan areas like Los Angeles are struggling to handle regulations on their own, according to the DPA, which says state level oversight is needed to assist localities in medical marijuana regulation and to act as a buffer between localities and the continued attacks on California’s medical marijuana program by the Federal government.
(Photo: Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)