The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday gave final approval to its ballot measure for regulating medical marijuana dispensaries, which voters will consider in May alongside two competing measures.
If approved, the measure would increase the tax on medical marijuana sales and allow the continued operation of only about 100 dispensaries that opened prior to the city's imposition of a 2007 moratorium on the facilities. A loophole caused the number of storefront pot shops to balloon shortly after the moratorium took effect.
"This is a step in the right direction,'' said Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who has cancer and uses medical marijuana as a pain reliever.
The ballot measure—proposed by Councilman Paul Koretz and seconded by Council President Herb Wesson—is billed as a compromise between two petition-driven initiatives that will also be on the May 21 ballot.
One initiative would increase the tax on marijuana from $50 to $60 for every $1,000 in sales, but would not limit the number of dispensaries. The other would allow only the original, pre-moratorium group of about 100 dispensaries to continue operating.
The backers of the second proposal—United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770, the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance, and Americans for Safe Access L.A.—announced recently they were abandoning support of their initiative in favor of Koretz's proposal, although it will still appear on the ballot.
City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, who is running for reelection in the March 5 primary, threw his support behind the Koretz measure.
"I believe this is the most sensible regulation we can come up with in this era of turmoil,'' Trutanich told the council. "This gives our city the opportunity to regulate medical marijuana and give medical marijuana to those people who truly need it, some sensibility. Let the voters speak—let's put it in the hands of the public."
Councilman José Huizar, who said he has received multiple complaints from constituents about marijuana dispensaries, voted against the ballot measure.
"It will not protect neighborhoods from the proliferation of of marijuana," Huizar said, adding "whether over the counter or on the street, a sale is a sale. It's illegal under California state law."
In the vote of 8-4-3, council members Mitch Englander, Joe Buscaino and Bernard Parks also dissented. Council members Jan Perry and Dennis Zine were absent. There is one vacant seat.
Tuesday's vote coincided with the first day of a state Supreme Court hearing on a Riverside case regarding the ability of cities to ban medical marijuana dispensaries. Use of marijuana for medical purposes is allowed in California, but is still illegal under federal law.