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Third medical pot measure moves toward L.A. ballot

January 16, 2013 |  1:23 pm

 Pot bud at a Los Angeles medical marijuana dispensary  Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles City Council moved forward with its own medical marijuana ballot measure Wednesday, increasing the chances voters could face three pot initiatives on the May ballot.

On an 11-1 vote, the council instructed city lawyers to draw up language for a ballot measure that would restrict the number of marijuana dispensaries allowed in the city. Supporters of the measure, including Councilman Paul Koretz and Council President Herb Wesson, said it would raise taxes on medical marijuana sales and would permit only those dispensaries that opened before a city moratorium in 2007.

The proposal comes after two other initiatives qualified for the ballot this month. According to Wesson, “both of those measures have left us wanting.”

One would allow any pot shop that meets certain requirements to operate. It would also raise taxes on medical marijuana sales by 20% to pay for city enforcement.

The other measure, which is backed by a labor union that has organized dispensary workers as well as a prominent medical marijuana advocacy group, would, like the City Council proposal, allow only those shops that opened before the city moratorium. But according to Wesson and Koretz, the measure doesn’t require dispensaries to keep enough distance from one another and from churches, schools and parks.

“We have to have some kind of distance requirement because that’s what’s the making the neighborhoods crazy,” said Wesson. He said there's a stretch of Pico Boulevard in his central Los Angeles district that people call “the green mile” because there are sometimes multiple pot shops on a single block.

Wesson said he hopes the city can craft a ballot measure that is attractive to the labor-led coalition that is supporting the second initiative. Although it is too late for that group to drop its own measure, it could throw its support behind the city measure, which Wesson said would increase the chances that it passes.

City officials will be meeting with the supporters of the second measure in the coming days to try to come to a consensus.

Don Duncan, who is part of the group supporting the labor-led ballot measure, said his coalition may come around to support the city’s initiative if the city can compromise on several points.

In particular, his group would like to see the city shorten the distance requirement regulating how far dispensaries must stay from schools, churches and parks from 1,000 feet, the figure currently under discussion, to 600 feet. He said he would also like the city to include in its measure a clause to make sure that if one portion of the ordinance was overturned by court, the rest of the law would stand.

Duncan said that while his group does not support a tax increase, “we’re prepared to concede” on that issue.

Duncan acknowledged that the idea of supporting the city’s proposal instead of its own is strange. It could pit his group and the city against the supporters of the other ballot measure, most of whom are involved in pot shops that opened after the city moratorium, and thus would be forced to close if the city measure passes. Under city rules, the ballot measure that gets the most votes will pass.

But Duncan said his group just wants to ensure patients continue to have access to medical marijuana.

“We’re prepared to deal with a unusual, awkward situation. It’s for the best for the city,” he said.

RELATED:

L.A. repeals its ban on pot stores

L.A. voters could decide 3 pot measures on May ballot

L.A. City Council bans medical marijuana dispensaries

-- Kate Linthicum at Los Angeles Times

twitter.com/katelinthicum

Photo: Pot bud at a Los Angeles medical marijuana dispensary  Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

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