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Referendum on medical marijuana ban qualifies for ballot (updated)

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Advocates who support the medicinal use of marijuana submitted enough valid signatures to force a referendum on the City of L.A.'s ban on dispensaries, the City Clerk’s office announced Monday.  

The city’s ban on pot shops was to have taken effect Sept. 6. However, it was halted when cannabis supporters turned in more than 49,000 signatures to overturn the ban. The City Clerk’s office, through a random sampling, found there are enough valid signatures to meet the minimum requirement for a referendum. That means the city’s ban cannot take effect until one of three things happens: 

  • The Los Angeles City Council repeals the ordinance; or
  • A special election is held in the next 110 to 140 days; or
  • The ordinance is placed on the March 5, 2013 ballot and voted on by Angelenos. 

The council is expected to decide which course to take before Oct. 7. 

The city’s ban would have shut down storefront clinics. Patients and caregivers would still be allowed to grow their own medical marijuana under the ordinance.  In preparation for the ban, the City Attorney’s Office mailed 1,046 letters to suspected dispensary locations, ordering them to shut down. Scofflaws would have faced court action and a $2,500 fine per day.

In a statement, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said,

I respect the public’s right to use the power of petition to make their voices heard. We are reviewing all the options as it relates to this matter. This further exemplifies the urgent need for clarification from the State Supreme Court on this vague and ambiguous law so cities can effectively plan for the future. As I have stated previously, I am committed to preserving access to medical marijuana for patients while protecting public safety and quality of life for all Angelenos.

In testimony before the Los Angeles City Council, the City Attorney’s Office estimated there were between 800 and 1,000 dispensaries. However, a recent UCLA study found there were only 472 clinics in the city. 

There was no immediately response from Americans for Safe Access.

While the referendum moves forward, there is another group suing to block enforcement of the ban. Patient Care Alliance-Los Angeles believes patients have a constitutional right to assemble for the purposes of cultivating and distributing medical marijuana. 

This post has been updated.

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