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Third medical pot measure heading for L.A. ballot

January 29, 2013 |  1:47 pm

Photo: Medical marijuana flourishes inside a grow house of a medical marijuana distributor in Long Beach. Credit: Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times
Despite strong opposition from several Los Angeles City Council members, a third medical marijuana ordinance is heading for the May ballot.

On Tuesday, the Council preliminarily agreed to put an ordinance before voters to raise taxes on medical marijuana sales and limit the number of dispensaries to only those that opened before a city moratorium was passed in 2007.

The ordinance is the city’s response to two other initiatives seeking to regulate dispensaries that qualified for the ballot after supporters gathered enough signatures. Several council members said those ordinances would allow too many pot shops to proliferate and said it was the city's responsibility to give voters a more restrictive alternative. 

But Councilman Bernard C. Parks said the city should refrain from making any laws that govern the distribution of marijuana until the federal government reclassifies it as a medicine.

“I don’t think you can tax contraband,” he said.

Parks, a former police chief, said he opposes all three of the ballot measures and plans to build an opposition campaign against them in his South Los Angeles district.

Community groups and others who oppose the ballot measures that would set up regulatory schemes for dispensaries have a battle ahead.

One of the measures, which would allow any dispensary to operate so long as it meets certain requirements, will have the financial support and backing of possibly hundreds of dispensaries and their patients. That measure is supported by dispensaries that opened after a 2007 city moratorium, due to a loophole in the law.

The council-drafted ballot measure is now backed by the powerful United Food and Commercial Workers union, which has been organizing workers at dispensaries, and by the the 130 or so dispensaries that opened before the moratorium. That coalition originally supported its own ballot measure but now has thrown its support behind the council's proposal because it says the measure has a better chance of passing.

That means that there will be three ordinances on the ballot, but political campaigns for only two of them. Councilman Paul Koretz, who supports the city ordinance, said Tuesday: "I think the best course for us is to offer this third. I agree with anyone who will say that three measures on the same issue on the same ballot is confusing. Still it seems like the most prudent way to go."

The Council voted 8-4 to put the ordinance on the ballot. The measure will come back for a second reading next week.

[For the record, 2:38 p.m., Jan. 29: An earlier version of this post said the vote was 12-4. The vote to place the ordinance on the ballot was 8-4.]


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 City Hall


Photo: Medical marijuana flourishes inside a grow house of a medical marijuana distributor in Long Beach. Credit: Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times