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Third medical marijuana measure proposed for L.A. ballot

Pedestrians pass a medical marijuana dispensary in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles in 2012. Credit: Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press

Even in the eminently complicated world of pot politics, the prospect is mind-boggling: In the May municipal election, Los Angeles voters could face not one but three ballot measures geared toward regulating medical marijuana.

Each of the proposals would allow some pot shops to remain open. The differences between them are small and all in the details.

Two of the proposed measures, which qualified for the ballot last week, are backed by opposing groups in the medical marijuana industry. One would allow only those dispensaries that opened before a city moratorium in 2007. The other would allow all pot shops that meet certain requirements, such as keeping limited hours and maintaining a certain distance from schools and churches. The second ballot measure would also raise taxes on medical marijuana sales.

The third option was proposed by several City Council members who believe the industry-backed measures are too liberal and would allow pot shops to proliferate. The council-backed ballot measure would probably require dispensaries to be at least 1,000 feet apart and would also include an increase of the medical marijuana tax.

The council will vote Wednesday on whether to place that measure on the ballot.

Chris Koontz, an aide to Councilman Paul Koretz who has worked extensively on the issue, said forcing voters to decipher the nuance between similar proposals is not ideal. “I cannot believe this is how policy is made,” he said. But he said the council doesn’t have a choice.

Last year, medical marijuana activists pressured the council to overturned its own ban on dispensaries after they launched a referendum drive seeking to repeal it.


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-- Kate Linthicum at Los Angeles City Hall


Photo: Pedestrians pass a medical marijuana dispensary in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles in 2012. Credit: Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press
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