Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Los Angeles City Council votes for own marijuana measure on May ballot to regulate pot dispensaries

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A divided Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to place its own medical marijuana measure on the May ballot, continuing its efforts to regulate storefront clinics that provide cannabis.

A coalition that includes Americans for Safe Access, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 and the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance - which previously qualified its own measure for the ballot - immediately endorsed the measure. While voters may still consider the alliance's ballot item, the coalition hopes Angelenos support the City Hall measure. 

“This initiative ordinance combines the best elements of our earlier version with additional revenues for public services,” said UFCW Local 770 President Rick Icaza.

Eight-hundred to 1,000 dispensaries operate in the city of Los Angeles. The proposed measure would reduce that number to about 130. It would also increase the business tax clinics pay from $50 per $1,000 in sales to $60. It would require clinics to operate at least 1,000 feet from schools and 600 feet from places like parks and libraries.

“The question is, can we give them the best, safest, most appropriate choice and that’s what this item is,” said Councilman Paul Koretz.

The city council voted 8-4 to place the measure on the May 21 ballot. A required second vote is likely next week. Councilmen Joe Buscaino, Mitch Englander, Jose Huizar and Bernard Parks were the dissenters. Last year, Huizar pushed for a total ban on clinics until the state Supreme Court clarifies what regulations municipalities may impose on the dispensaries. The Los Angeles City Council overturned the ban after critics qualified a referendum on the law.

Angelenos for Safe Access backed a third regulatory ban that will also appear on the May ballot. The proposal would also increase the clinics’ business tax to $60 per $1,000 in gross sales but it would not limit the number of dispensaries in operation.

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