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Bid to overturn L.A. pot shop ban qualifies for ballot

September 17, 2012 |  3:27 pm

Sharon Lee, a city operations manager, looks over petitions to repeal a ban on medical marijuana outlets at the Los Angeles City Clerk's Office on Aug. 30. Activists secured enough signatures to place the measure on the ballot.

Activists seeking to repeal a ban on medical marijuana outlets in Los Angeles have secured enough verified signatures to place their measure on the ballot, City Clerk June Lagmay said Monday.

Backers of medical marijuana dispensaries needed 27,425 valid signatures for their measure to qualify. Lagmay said a statistical sampling of the signatures showed that activists had turned in 110% of the amount needed.

The council now has the option of repealing its ordinance, calling a special election or placing the measure on the ballot in the March 5 election, when voters will choose a mayor, city controller, city attorney and eight council members. The third scenario is currently considered the most likely.

Councilman José Huizar spearheaded passage of the ordinance, which prohibits the sale of cannabis but allows groups of three people or fewer to cultivate and share the drug. Implementation of that ordinance was put on hold when activists turned in roughly 49,000 signatures seeking to overturn it.

The referendum is backed by several groups, including the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 770, which started unionizing dispensary workers earlier this year, and the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance, an association of dispensary operators who registered with the city before a moratorium on new pot shops was enacted in 2007.

Yami Bolanos, president of the Greater Los Angeles Collectives Alliance, said she hopes the City Council will avoid an election campaign by rescinding its ordinance and passing a new one that allows the city's oldest dispensaries to remain open.

"We are prepared to go to the ballot if that's what we need to do," she said. "But we'd rather deal with them here and now. It would be much simpler for everyone involved."

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-- David Zahniser and Kate Linthicum at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: Sharon Lee, a city operations manager, looks over petitions to repeal a ban on medical marijuana outlets at the L.A. city clerk's office last month. Activists secured enough signatures to place the measure on the ballot. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

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