Jan. 3, 2013 11:52

Will L.A. Finally Get it Together?

One ordinance and two initiatives compete in 2013 to regulate medical cannabis

There are two initiatives that are gathering signatures to be placed on the general election ballot on  May 21. Before that, the Los Angeles City Council is trying to get its act together and pass an ordinance in the next couple of months. The city is scrambling to put this ordinance together because it knows further delay will take the power away from the government and be put into the hands of dispensaries and voters (this, of course, scares city officials!).

You may ask, what happens if the City Council passes ordinance before May? It would become law, subject to the same referendum that overturned the previous ordinance in late 2012. If enough signatures are gathered to overturn it (which I think is very possible), it would be overturned and the two ballot initiatives would go to the voters to decide the regulation of dispensaries in Los Angeles.

What do these measures look like, and how should we as a community react? See below for this lawyer’s opinion.

1. The Marijuana Regulation and Control Act: Allows only for the dispensaries that have been around and filed with the city before 2007. These dispensaries wish to be grandfathered in and have a monopoly on L.A.’s MMJ industry.

  • This initiative is well written to insulate city officials from acting in a manner that might be perceived as interfering with the federal laws.

  • It restricts access.Since only about 100 of these original dispensaries are still operating, access to medication would be severely limited, thus only about 20 percent of the shops out there would be allowed to remain open. This could have the adverse affect of driving medication back underground to satisfy the demand.

  • It allows shops to stay open based on seniority, rather than merit. In my opinion, as a community, we should select the collectives that operate legally and fairly. This initiative puts seniority above all else, which is not necessarily good for the patient.

2. The Regulation of Medical Marijuana for Safe Neighborhoods and Safe Access: It raises taxes, which is bad news for dispensaries, but it may be that extra percent that drives the public to vote for it. We know that taxing cannabis distribution is a public favorite.

  • This initiative allows for more dispensaries and thus access is more readily available. On the flip side, not having a cap on the number of dispensaries means there will be too many dispensaries

  • Creates merit-based—not seniority-based—awarding of licenses.

  • Does not allow collectives/growing in residential areas for anything beyond personal use.

  • Allows dispensaries to possess hash but not to manufacture it

  • As always, all initiatives leave the growers out of the picture. There are ways to useThe Regulation of Medical Marijuana for Safe Neighborhoods and Safe Access for the growers but they are not explicitly mentioned anywhere.

3. The city’s ordinance to be passed by City Council: This is very similar to The Marijuana Regulation and Control Act, but goes even further to limit access.

  • The worst restriction is that a patient cannot be a member, volunteer or manager of more than one collective. That is akin to the government saying you can only go to one Rite Aid location and don’t even think about Walgreens!

  • Two dispensaries cannot be open within 1,000 feet of each other.

Although none of these proposals are perfect, it is time for L.A. to take a stand. And, as you may be able to gather, this attorney is in favor of The Regulation of Medical Marijuana for Safe Neighborhoods and Safe Access.

Let’s make sure the people have a voice!

Attorney Meital Manzuri is a medical cannabis expert, collective consultant and experienced criminal defense attorney. Those with questions about starting a collective or interested in scheduling a free consultation can call (310) 601-3140 or go to manzurilaw.com.

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