The Los Angeles City Council voted, 8-4, Tuesday to place two separate medical marijuana initiatives on the May 21 municipal ballot—but each initiative must come up for a second vote next week, when the council will consider a third medical marijuana initiative.
One of the initiatives is aimed at allowing about 100 medical marijuana dispensaries to continue operating under tighter restrictions, provided they can prove they were in existence before Sept. 14, 2007, when the city first tried to place a moratorium on new marijuana shops. The council had the option to either adopt the initiative as an ordinance or put it before voters in May.
The other initiative seeks mainly to increase from $50 to $60 the business tax on every $1,000 worth of marijuana sold. Harit Trivedi of the Public Integrity Division of the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office, told the council it had no option but to put that initiative on the ballot because it amended a previous initiative, Measure M, which voters approved in March 2011.
Council member Paul Koretz proposed that the council submit both initiatives for the May ballot. Even though the council voted separately on the two initiatives, the vote tally was the same, 8-4. The four council members voting against placing the initiatives on the May ballot were José Huizar, Mitch Englander, Bernard Parks and Jan Perry.
With the lack of a unanimous vote, both initiatives must come before the council for consideration again next week.
At that time the council will also decide the fate of its own initiative, first proposed on Jan. 16, which is aimed at resolving the highly contested and frequently confusing battle between marijuana advocates and the city.
The council's initiative contains many of the provisions already in a “Limited Immunity Ordinance” crafted by the city attorney’s office in accordance with a plan proposed by Koretz last year. Koretz's proposal came a few months after the council voted to ban all storefront dispensaries, only to subsequently reverse its decision when medical marijuana supporters gathered enough signatures to repeal the ban.
Among other things, the limited immunity ordinance calls for the operation under strict guidelines of some 125 dispensaries that were in business before the Sept. 14, 2007, moratorium on new pot shops.
“It doesn’t matter which of these three pass,” John Walsh, a frequent commentator on city politics, told the council during the public comments period. “All that matters is that you enforce the law.”
Another frequent commentator, Arnold Sax, pointed out that after all these years the city council had yet to do anything about trying to resolve the differences between state law, which permits marijuana use for medical reasons, and federal law, which deems any form of marijuana use as illegal.
“If the federal government decides to come down on the landlords of the places that open up with medical marijuana shops and requires them to close up shop or face prosecution, what happens then?” Sax said.