Two weeks after the Los Angeles City Clerk certified two separate ballot initiatives sponsored by competing groups of medical marijuana advocates, the Los Angeles City Council voted 11-1 Wednesday to prepare for a third ballot measure designed by the city to regulate medical marijuana collectives.
The council’s vote directed City Attorney Carmen Trutanich to prepare the paperwork for a medical marijuana ordinance to be put on the May 21 municipal election ballot. The ordinance would have many of the provisions already contained in a “Limited Immunity Ordinance” crafted by the city attorney’s office in accordance with a plan proposed by Council member Paul Koretz last year.
The plan calls for the operation under strict guidelines of some 125 dispensaries that were in business before a Sept. 14, 2007 moratorium on new pot clinics.
Wednesday’s action by the City Council follows a motion proposed last week by Koretz, and seconded by Council President Herb Wesson, seeking to come up with a marijuana ordinance that would allay neighborhood concerns about hundreds of loosely regulated pot dispensaries while providing relief to patients who rely on marijuana for medical reasons. (See the attached PDF file for details of the motion.)
“I agree with anyone who will say that three measures on the same issue will be somewhat confusing,” Koretz told the council in a brief speech. “Still, on balance, this seems like the prudent way to go,” he added, referring to his proposal.
The two other ballot initiatives proposed by marijuana activists, Kortez argued in his motion last week, contain “a number of drafting and policy choices” likely to perpetuate the “unregulated proliferation of medical marijuana business and related activities in the City.”
While one of the initiatives carries a key provision requiring dispensaries to prove they were operating before the Sept. 14, 2007 moratorium, the other initiative seeks mainly to impose a $60 business tax on every $1,000 worth of marijuana sold in the city.
One of the ballot initiatives, in particular, “could leave far too little regulation of dispensaries and wouldn’t serve our neighborhoods,” Koretz said without specifying which of the two initiatives that is. “I think the best course for us is to offer voters a third alternative—a third and better alternative, which combines the revenue-raising provisions of one with the sensible controls on the numbers, locations and operations of dispensaries of the other.” He added: “This would ensure reasonable access but still protect our neighborhoods.”
The city council is expected to vote next week on the ordinance that the City Attorney prepares.
Koretz said he will continue his discussions with the proponents of the two other ballot measures “to see if we can reach a consensus before we act on this matter next week.”
Koretz said he understands that some council members are “somewhat more anti-medical marijuana” than others. “But I would ask you, rather than vote this down here today, to at least give us the chance to bring the paperwork for your consideration and take whatever actions you decide to take based on what you actually see before you next week.”
The lone opponent of Wednesday’s vote was Council member José Huizar. Last year, Huizar proposed a “gentle ban” on pot storefronts in an effort to provide access to marijuana for groups of three or less patients while state authorities and the California Supreme Court decide on how cities can or cannot regulate the industry.
“He has been consistent with his position,” Huizar’s communications director, Rick Coca, told Patch afer the vote. “The direction needs to come from the state and the Supreme Court, and we need to push that along.”
Council member Bill Rosendahl, who has admitted in the past to consuming marijuana for his diabetes-related disorders, said he favors the Koretz-Wesson proposal over the other two ballot initiatives. Arguing that legalizing marijuana is far better than legalized alcohol, he added that “no matter what we do here as a group,” developments surrounding both the medical and recreational use of marijuana “are going to continue in other states and on the national level.”
The bottom line, Rosendahl said, is “let’s move forward with this in this council now and show real leadership.”