3 competing medical marijuana measures on Tuesday ballot

May 17, 2013

Rick Orlov, LA Daily News

In a test of public support for medical marijuana, Los Angeles voters will have three different options Tuesday to regulate pot dispensaries, including proposals that limit their numbers and impose new taxes on their sales.

Or they can vote against all three, sending a signal that - depending on whom you ask - either means they don't want any dispensaries at all, or, alternately that they want lots of them without limits or caps.

Supporters of medical marijuana see the vote as critical not just to the future of the dispensaries in Los Angeles, but also in the rest of California, now that the state Supreme Court has ruled local jurisdictions can prohibit the facilities.

Kris Hermes, spokesman for the pro-marijuana Americans for Safe Access, said voting to regulate dispensaries will help their future in Los Angeles.

"Regulations would not only help benefit and bring greater safety to the people of Los Angeles, but deliver much-needed revenue to the city," Hermes said. "Patients have been waiting several years for dispensary regulations in Los Angeles. It is truly an idea whose time has come."

While there are three marijuana measures on the ballot - Proposition D, Ordinance E and Ordinance F - there are only two active campaigns now, as the main supporters of E decided to throw their backing behind D.

Prop. D would cap the number of dispensaries at 135, the ones that were open and registered with the city before a moratorium was created in 2007. It would impose a 6 percent tax on sales of marijuana. The current rate is 5 percent. D was crafted by the City Council to allow a finite number of dispensaries after its effort to have an outright ban on the clinics was challenged with an initiative.

Ordinance F has no cap and is backed by clinics that would be excluded under D. It also requires testing of the marijuana dispensed at the facilities, background checks on employees and auditing of their operations. It also places a tax of 6 percent on marijuana sold.

Ordinance E caps the number at 135, but has no tax increase and fewer other restrictions.

Voters have a fourth option, Councilman Bernard Parks said. They can reject all three proposals and allow the City Council to decide the issue.

But some supporters of medical marijuana think that, rather than allow them to operate unchecked, it would spell bad news for their future.

"If all the measures are defeated, it will be viewed, I think, as giving the City Council a free hand to do what they have shown they already want to do - just ban all dispensaries outright," said political consultant Garry South, who is handling the F campaign.

South also argued that passage of Proposition D, with its strict requirements and cap, would lead to a "slow death" for medical marijuana clinics.

"Individual council members will be able to close down all the dispensaries in their district," South said.

But Kerry Townsend Jacob, spokeswoman for D, argued that the measure would best stand up to future attempts to modify rules on dispensaries.

"While we don't think the City Council will try to have an outright ban again, if Proposition D passes, the council would need to repeal the measure and that would require another vote of the people," Jacob said.

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