Signatures Submitted to Put Pot Shop Ballot Measure on May City Ballot

December 20, 2012

City News Service,

A group of medical marijuana advocates on Friday submitted more than 73,500 petition signatures to qualify a ballot measure that would allow pot dispensaries to operate in Los Angeles under specific conditions.

The proposed ballot measure would allow storefront medical cannabis collectives that are at least 500 to 1,000 feet from schools, parks, libraries, child care centers and religious institutions. If approved, the measure would also impose a business tax of $60 on every $1,000 of marijuana sold at the dispensaries.

The initiative is backed by a group called Angelenos for Safe Access, a coalition of medical marijuana collectives and patients. They hope to get the measure on the May 21 citywide general election ballot. The group needs 41,138 valid signatures to qualify.

"The city needs a sensible strategy for regulating marijuana that won't allow for the unregulated proliferation of dispensaries across the city," said Steven Afriat, a registered lobbyist and spokesman for Angelenos for Safe Access. "This initiative protects our neighborhoods, puts bad operators out of business and raises millions of dollars annually for the city's General Fund.''

A separate group has submitted petition signatures for a medical marijuana initiative that would allow a select group of slightly more than 100 dispensaries that were in operation prior to Sept. 14, 2007, when the city attempted to place a moratorium on new pot shops, to reopen. The competing plan is backed by the Committee to Protect Patients and Neighborhoods, comprised of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770, the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance and Americans for Safe Access-LA.

City officials have struggled for years to come up with a legal way to limit the number of medical marijuana dispensaries; however, the city has been stymied at every turn by lawsuits and conflicting court opinions.

In July, the Los Angeles City Council opted to ban dispensaries until ongoing court cases or revised state law provide clarity on how the city can legally regulate dispensaries. A referendum that would have overturned the ban qualified for the March ballot, and council members repealed the ban in October, leaving dispensaries completely unregulated.

The City Council is now studying a so-called "limited immunity'' law similar to the Committee to Protect Patients and Neighborhoods' measure. The plan aims to reduce the number of dispensaries to those that were operating prior to the 2007 effort to halt the proliferation of pot shops and to place tight restrictions on them.

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