Backers of dueling medical pot measures tangle in court
A Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday that ballot arguments for two opposing Los Angeles medical marijuana measures do not violate the law and should appear as they were written in the city's official voter guide.
Attorneys for both measures had alleged the other side violated the city election code.
Lawyers for Proposition D, which is backed by the City Council and a labor union representing marijuana dispensary workers, sued the city first. They claimed the ballot argument in favor of the competing Measure F, which is supported by a separate coalition of dispensaries and other medical marijuana groups, was unfair because it refers to Proposition D as “a Trojan Horse” that “was slapped on the ballot at the last minute by the City Council.”
In court Wednesday, Proposition D attorney Bradley Hertz said a ballot argument in favor of a measure should explain why voters should vote for it, not why they shouldn't vote for the competition.
“If I were to ask someone, ‘Why do you like hamburgers?’ I don’t think a good answer would be: ‘Because they’re better than hot dogs,’” Hertz said.
But Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joanne O'Donnell ruled the language should stand. “It seems logical than an argument for one ballot measure may include statements regarding the insufficiency of another,” O'Donnell wrote in an opinion.
A separate challenge brought by the backers of Measure F was also dismissed by O'Donnell. In that case, Measure F attorneys argued that the ballot argument on behalf of Proposition D was unfair because it called itself "the only measure" that will raise taxes and control and regulate dispensaries.
Measure F, which was the first to qualify for the ballot, would allow an unlimited number of dispensaries so long as operators pay taxes, keep a certain distance from schools and each other and meet other requirements.
A third marijuana dispensary measure will appear on the ballot as Initiative Ordinance E, which would allow only older pot shops to continue operating. It initially was supported by the union of dispensary workers and a group of some of the city's original dispensaries, but those groups are now backing Proposition D.
Crafted by the council, Proposition D also would allow only the oldest dispensaries to continue operating, while raising taxes on medical marijuana sales.
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-- Kate Linthicum
Photo: Medical marijuana at a Los Angeles dispensary. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times