LA City Council moves to write a third medical cannabis initiative

January 17, 2013 | Don Duncan
Voters in Los Angeles will have three medical cannabis measures from which to choose when they go to the polls in May. The City Council approved a motion (11-1) by Council Member Paul Koretz on Wednesday instructing the City Attorney to write a voter initiative regulating collectives and cooperatives and raising the tax they must pay. The city’s belated effort at regulating hundreds of patients’ associations will join two community-led efforts to adopt regulations that have already qualified for the ballot.

Staff at City Hall does not expect to see initiative language from the City Attorney until just before the January 31 deadline for submitting ballot measures, so no one knows the details of City Council’s plan. Council Member Koretz’s motion instructs the City Attorney to base the voter initiative on a draft ordinance last vetted by the City Planning Commission on November 29. Known at City Hall as the “limited immunity” ordinance, that draft banned patients’ associations unless they met strict criteria, including opening before September 2007, locating 1,000 from sensitive uses, paying taxes, never having closed, and more.  Council Member Koretz’s new motion instructs the City Attorney to  add another 1% local tax on collectives and cooperatives – bringing the city’s total medical cannabis tax to 6%.



The first voter initiative qualified for the May ballot was submitted by the Committee to Protect Patients and Neighborhood (CPPN), a coalition that includes Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance (GLACA), and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 770. That initiative would only allow collectives and cooperatives that opened before September 2007, the date the city originally established a moratorium on new facilities. The initiative also allows the city to pursue permanent licensing for patients’ associations when there is greater clarity under state law.

A second voter initiative was submitted by a group of collective and cooperative operators recently organized under the name Angelinos for Safe Access. This organization has no connection to ASA, despite the surprising similarity of their name. The second initiative sets no upper limit on the number of facilities in the city, relying instead on location restrictions and other criteria to limit potential providers. This initiative was specifically designed to provide an opportunity for some of the hundreds of collectives and cooperatives that opened after the city’s 2007 moratorium to stay open. The second measure would also raise the existing city tax from 5% to 6%.

ASA remains committed to the voter initiative we helped create and submit as part of the CPPN patient-provider-worker coalition effort. We think it is the best option for preserving patients’ access and addressing the community’s concerns. We are confident most voters in Los Angeles will agree – including those who are ambivalent on this issue. Of course, we hope the city will create a ballot measure that we can all get behind. But we cannot afford to wait and see, especially given the City Attorney’s persistent opposition to any medical cannabis regulation in the city.

Patients and other voters will debate the pros and cons of each measure between now and May 21, when all three initiatives are likely to be on the ballot. ASA will publish more analysis and comparisons of each measure after the city publishes its version. In the meantime, there may still be time for residents of Los Angeles to influence the content of the city measure. ASA encourages patients and advocates to speak up to their City Council representative right now. Tell him or her what you do and do not want to see in a medical cannabis ballot measure. Do not wait for the City Attorney’s draft – there may be little time for debate and amendments before the submission deadline on January 31.
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