Council ponders medical marijuana proposals

By Edwin Folven, 1/10/2013

Two initiatives are certified, and could be placed on ballot


The Los Angeles City Clerk’s Office has certified two separate ballot proposals authored by medical marijuana proponents that could appear on the ballot during the May 21 municipal election.

The first proposal, which was certified on Dec. 28, calls for medical marijuana collectives that were open before the city council’s 2007 moratorium on dispensaries to be allowed to remain open. It also calls for dispensaries to be located away from sensitive areas such as schools, parks, libraries and community centers, although it is not specified how far, and that they undergo annual background checks by the Los Angeles Police Department.

The second proposal is much broader, and places no limits on the number of collectives that can operate within the city. It also calls for dispensaries to be located away from sensitive areas, and would require operators to obtain city permits. The proposal, which was certified on Jan. 3, additionally calls for a business tax on collectives of $60 per $1,000 in gross receipts.

The Los Angeles City Council is expected to consider the first proposal by Jan. 23, and has until Jan. 30 to take action on the second proposal. With each, the council has the option either to adopt the recommendations, place the proposal on the ballot or call for a special election.

The first proposal mirrors one authored by Councilman Paul Koretz, 5th District, last fall, when the city repealed its medical marijuana ordinance. Koretz’s motion calls for the approximately 100 dispensaries operating before the moratorium in 2007 to remain open, but for all others to be closed. He is also calling for the dispensaries to be located at least 600 feet away from sensitive areas — which coincides with state law. Koretz stated that his plan would be the best way to provide access to patients who need medical marijuana, while still regulating the number of dispensaries located within the city.

“My hope is the same as it has always been — to protect neighborhoods while allowing a small number of highly regulated dispensaries in order to serve the critical needs of true patients,” Koretz said. “I hope that we can work out a compromise with the sponsor of the more restrictive initiative.”

The second ballot proposal, which places no limits on the number of dispensaries, is not well received, according to Christopher Koontz, planning deputy for Koretz.

“We are very concerned about that,” he said. “I think everyone agrees that is not the way to go.”

If the city council decides to place the proposals on the ballot, they will likely be decided at the same time voters choose a new mayor, city attorney and several council members. Frank Mateljan, a spokesman for City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, who is running for reelection, said Trutanich has no comment on the new proposed ballot initiatives. Trutanich had previously proposed the “gentle ban” that was repealed in October. That ordinance allowed groups of three or more patients to grow and share the medical marijuana, but banned collectives. The city repealed the ordinance after medical marijuana proponents gathered enough signatures to potentially force a vote to overturn the ban.

Former state assemblyman and city attorney candidate Mike Feuer said it is too early to comment on the proposed ballot initiatives, stating that he plans to monitor the situation and wait until the city council makes a decision. However, Feuer said a balance needs to be found between allowing access for patients who need the drug and preventing an overabundance of dispensaries, which by some accounts now number nearly 1,000.

“It is very important that genuinely sick people have access to medical marijuana to alleviate suffering,” Feuer said. “There are, however, too many medical marijuana dispensaries. It is often too easy to obtain the marijuana, and because there are cash and drugs present, they often become the target of crimes. The approach the city should take is to strike a balance between access to medical marijuana for those who need it, and public safety.”





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