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Tuesday, Sep 26, 2023

Will Voters Put a Lid on Pot Shops?

After a few extreme policy shifts on the regulation of pot shops, the City of Los Angeles has turned the question over to voters. In addition to the mayoral election, the ballot on May 21 will include three measures on medical marijuana dispensaries. The vote could determine whether hundreds of dispensaries will go up in smoke or if all the currently operating shops will stay in business, albeit paying a higher business tax. Since 2005, the city has struggled to implement various systems to control medical marijuana, including a moratorium, various limits on the number of shops and restrictions on their hours of operation. In 2012, the city council voted to shut down the 763 clinics registered with the city and take legal action if the shops did not close. Less than three months later the council reversed its decision and repealed the ban. Proposition D, put on the ballot by action of the Los Angeles City Council, would limit the number of dispensaries to the 135 that have been in continuous operation since September 2007. Supporters of Prop D include the Valley Industry & Commerce Association, the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance, Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti and former Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti. “Because of the business aspect in terms of job creation, tax revenue, and providing legal stability around the whole issue, it is a good fit for VICA as a business issue although it may not normally seem like it,” said Brad Hertz, an attorney with Sutton Law Firm in Sherman Oaks who represents Proposition D supporters. The competing Initiative F would not limit the number of clinics that can register to operate in the city but gives priority to those in business as of October 2012. Initiative F is backed by a coalition of business, collectives, doctors and patients. Supporters listed in the sample ballot include retired Los Angeles Police and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s officers. The third, Initiative E, is similar in language to Proposition D. While on the ballot, the measure’s backers, led by the Committee to Protect Patients and Neighborhoods, are no longer seeking voter approval. Even if all three measures receive 51 percent or more approval, only the ballot measure receiving the most number of votes will go into effect. Adding a wrinkle to the issue is a California Supreme Court ruling on May 6 that allows cities to ban marijuana dispensaries within their borders. The pro-Proposition D camp, however, does not think the court ruling will impact voter turnout on the measure and may instead increase awareness about the ballot measures. It is important that Los Angeles create its own regulations otherwise the door is open to a total ban, said Hertz. The fact that other communities in the state may want an outright ban is not relevant to the direction of the discussion taking place in Los Angeles, said City Councilman Paul Koretz, whose direct includes a portion of the San Fernando Valley and who supports Proposition D. “The majority of residents realize (medical marijuana) is necessary; it is a question of how to do it,” Koretz said. For non-marijuana businesses, the biggest issue is proximity and location of the shops. Proposition D would require the dispensaries to be no less than 1,000 feet from schools and 600 feet from parks, child care facilities, other designated places, and other medical marijuana businesses. Initiative F has similar provisions – a 500-foot separation from parks, child care facilities, and other collectives. Another difference is in the closing times. Prop D’s is for 8 p.m., whereas Initiative F calls for a 10 p.m. closing time. “As a neighborhood quality issue that is an important distinction,” Hertz said. Both D and F call for an increase in the business tax to $60 for each $1,000 in gross receipts. In 2012, the city collected $2.5 million in business taxes from medical marijuana businesses, according to the city administrative officer. The current number of marijuana clinics in the city is not known. Figures from just less than 800 to more than 1,200 have been bandied about by both their supporters and critics. “The highest guess I have heard is 1,800,” Koretz said. “There are some neighborhoods that are overrun with them.” Pot Shop Reform Two competing ballot measures Proposition D Placed on ballot by City Council • Limits number of medical marijuana dispensaries to 135 • 1,000 feet from schools and 600 feet from parks, child care facilities, other designated places and other collectives • Increases city tax to $60 for each $1,000 of gross receipts • Closing time is 8 p.m. • No allowance of minors on the premises • Managers must submit to LAPD background checks • Marijuana must not be visible from exterior of building Initiative F Supported by many dispensaries • Collectives must register with the city but no limit on their number • 1,000 feet from schools and 500 feet from parks, child care facilities, other designated places and other collectives • Increases city tax to $60 for each $1,000 of gross receipts • Closing time is 10 p.m. • No allowance of minors on premises • All managers, volunteers or employees must submit to LAPD background checks • Operate as a non-profit • Monitored by Internet-based closed circuit television • File annual audit of operations certified by an independent public accountant • Submit samples for testing of pesticides and other regulated contaminants

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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