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City council approves medical pot measure

By Edwin Folven, 1/31/2013

New measure joins two others on May 21 ballot


The Los Angeles City Council approved a plan Tuesday to place its own medical marijuana measure on the May 21 municipal ballot after two previous measures generated by medical pot proponents were approved for the same ballot.

Officials have estimated that more than 1,000 medical marijuana dispensaries are operating in L.A. (photo by Edwin Folven)

The city’s initiative was authored by City Councilman Paul Koretz, 5th District, and merges elements of the other two measures. The city’s plan would allow all dispensaries that were open before the 2007 moratorium took effect — approximately 100 to 130 — to remain open, and would also increase the business tax dispensaries now pay from $50 to $60 per $1,000 in revenue. Dispensaries would also be required to be located more than 1,000 feet away from schools, and 600 feet away from libraries, community centers and other sensitive locations.

Koretz said he has long believed that there needs to be a balance between providing access to medical marijuana for people who need it, and the number of dispensaries located in the city, which by some estimates number as high as 1,000.

“The residents of Los Angeles deserve greater control and protection over medical marijuana dispensaries in order to limit and prevent adverse impacts,” Koretz said. “At the same time, legitimate patients deserve safe access to their medicine. Unfortunately, the two initiatives that qualified for the ballot failed to provide either. That is why I [authored] a third option that contains the tax benefits and patient provisions of the two initiatives, but also contains greater protections for communities. I hope the voters will agree, as I do, that it is the best path forward.”

In regards to other two initiatives, one calls for the dispensaries that were open before 2007 to remain open, and the other places no regulation on the number of dispensaries, but raises the business tax by $10. If voters approve more than one initiative, the measure that receives the most votes will be enacted into law.

The council voted 8-4 to place the city’s initiative on the ballot, with Councilmen Buscaino, Parks, Huizar and Englander voting no. Englander and Buscaino did not return requests for comment. Rick Coca, a spokesman for Huizar, said the councilman believes the best approach is to let the California Supreme Court rule on whether cities and counties can regulate medical marijuana. The court is expected to examine within the next year.

“The councilman believes that the city has long looked at this issue every which way. He proposed a ban that later had to be rescinded, and there are eleven pending court cases up to this point. He believes the city should wait until the California Supreme Court rules on telling us what to do,” Coca said.

Britney Marin, a spokeswoman for Parks, said he believes the pending ballot initiatives violate state and federal laws regarding marijuana, and that the Los Angeles City Attorney has acknowledged that it is illegal to tax something that is illegal to sell. Parks believes that if the marijuana initiatives are approved, it would still be illegal to implement, tax and sell marijuana.

Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, declined to comment on the ballot initiatives. He said, however, that marijuana is illegal under federal law under any circumstances. Last week, a federal court in the District of Columbia ruled against altering the federal Drug Enforcement Agency’s classification of marijuana as being a dangerous drug. Mrozek said the DEA is in the midst of taking enforcement actions against dispensaries in the Los Angeles area. The investigations will continue, although he declined to offer any specifics.



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