Third Time’s the CharmBy Jasen T. Davis
This May, Los Angeles voters will potentially have up to three dispensary-regulation measures on the ballot to choose from—two that are already on the ballot. Last month, the Los Angeles City Council voted 11-1 to propose the legal language for a third new initiative, which has been described as a hybrid of the other two.
Councilman Paul Koretz is the sponsor of the new initiative, which includes limited immunity for owners and workers, increases taxes on dispensaries throughout the city, calls or legal background checks for workers and requires that dispensaries operate at least 1,000 feet away from areas like public schools, parks and libraries.
The new initiative also reduces the number of dispensaries currently operating in the city from more than 1,000 to around 100 that can prove that they have existed since September 14, 2007.
The Medical Marijuana Regulation and Control Act, originally sponsored by The Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance (GLACA), Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and UFCW Local 770, is similar to the new initiative that has been filed by LA. Both initiatives offer limited immunity from prosecution in exchange for increased taxes, regulation and would close hundreds of currently existing dispensaries throughout Los Angeles.
Surprisingly, GLACA has formally voted to support the new initiative (and essentially abandon the old one they had sponsored—it was too late to withdraw it). GLACA President Yamileth Bolanos says she is pleased with the results. “The new initiative gives us everything that we’ve wanted,” she says.
“The only difference between ours and theirs is the six-percent tax increase at this point, so we’re very happy to stand with the city on this initiative.”
Bolanos is confident that voters will approve of the new regulations when they hit the polls a few months from now. “We’re looking forward to a complete victory in this area in May,” she says.
In contrast to these two initiatives, The Regulation of Medical Marijuana for Safe Neighborhoods and Safe Access, sponsored by the group Angelinos for Safe Access, sets no limit on the number of dispensaries operating in the city. The legal language of this initiative is otherwise somewhat similar to the others.
Don Duncan, California director and co-founder for ASA, a grassroots organization dedicated to promoting safe access to medical cannabis, has announced that his organization approves of the city’s new initiative. “Americans for Safe Access is also supporting the LA initiative,” Duncan says. “We hope that the whole community can get behind this, including providers, patients, the city, law enforcement, so that we can ultimately prevail at the ballot box.”
Once the legal language of the new initiative is official, portions of it can be modified to the benefit of all parties through further legislation in a court of law. “Hopefully then, as we go on, we can improve the law as time goes by once we get it adopted in May,” Duncan says.
However, not everyone supports the new initiative. City Council members like Jose Huizar, Mitchell Englander, Jan Perry and Bernard Parks have repeatedly renounced attempts to legislate medical cannabis dispensaries by the city, claiming that the underlining legality of medical cannabis sales is still nonexistent.
“The council continues to support a dispensary model for how marijuana is distributed when a dispensary model is illegal under state law,” Huizar says. “A sale of marijuana is illegal, whether you do it over the counter or in the street.’”
Bern, Baby, Bern
Los Angeles City Councilman and former Police Chief Bernard Parks isn’t a fan of LA’s latest attempts to regulate MMJ. Parks says the city shouldn’t try to legislate the industry until the federal government reclassifies the plant from a “dangerous” drug to a plant with medical properties. “I don’t think we can tax contraband,” he said, according to the Los Angeles Times. Parks says he opposes all three initiatives and plans to launch an opposition campaign. Good luck, Bernie.