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News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

Props M and N: Your chance to choose how marijuana is regulated in LA

by Jacob Margolis | Take Two®

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File: Kushmart, one of the largest medical dispensaries in downtown Los Angeles, has 55 strains of marijuana. Several strains at the dispensary are named after Star Wars characters. Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Even though Californians just voted on legal marijuana in November, coming up on March 7, those in the city of Los Angeles will have two more pot-related decisions to make. That's because the upcoming ballot has two marijuana Propositions: M and N.

Here's what you need to know about both.

Didn't we just vote on marijuana in November?

Yes. Statewide, voters did legalize marijuana, that's true, but the whole industry is on hold because laws and regulations at the state and local levels are being worked out right now. 

Every marijuana business will have to get a license from the state to operate. But, to get a license from the state, first they have to get a license from their city or county.

Propositions M and N are meant to begin the process of writing the rules about marijuana in the city of L.A.

What does Proposition M do?

A few things:

  1. It empowers the L.A. City Council to make the rules about how to regulate the legal marijuana industry within the city. They’ll be able to decide things like how the industry should be taxed, where businesses should be allowed to operate and the sorts of penalties that should be levied against those who violate the law. It also considers licensing for cultivators, manufacturers and distributors.
  2. It allows for the replacement of Proposition D, which voters passed in 2013. Proposition D limited the number of shops that can operate in the city to 135. That means that the City Council will be able to decide how many shops should be allowed in the city.
  3. It prioritizes those 135 compliant shops to receive licenses first when L.A. issues them. The shop owners argue that since they've been paying taxes and operating in compliance with the law, that they should be first in line.

Proposition M has been backed by the City Council, the mayor and by multiple marijuana advocates and industry trade groups. In the voter information pamphlet distributed by the county, there are no arguments against Proposition M.

What about Proposition N?

This is where it gets a little confusing. First off, you need to know that no one currently supports Proposition N.

It was originally written by the UCBA Trade Association, which represents some of the Proposition D compliant shops. It covers some of the same things as Proposition M in that it determines how the city should regulate the marijuana industry.

However, opponents of Proposition N argued that it unfairly favored those Proposition D compliant shops. Eventually, the UCBA was persuaded to support Proposition M by other marijuana industry groups in the city.

At the end of the day, the separate industry groups agreed to support the one measure, but it was too late to take Proposition N off the ballot, even though the UCBA pulled their support.

"Once city council has taken action in these measures and it’s placed on the ballot, there’s no way of removing a ballot measure," said Cecilia Gomez Reyes, Media Coordinator for the Office of the City Clerk for the City of Los Angeles.

In the voter information pamphlet, voters are urged to vote no on Proposition N and to vote yes on Proposition M by the authors.

What happens if both Proposition N and M fail to pass?

According to City Councilmember Herb Wesson's office, the council can still repeal Proposition D, since it was initially sponsored by the city. The Council can still begin to determine L.A.'s marijuana laws, but they're limited in what they can do when it comes to deciding how to tax the industry.

When are L.A.'s marijuana laws going to be in place?

Assuming Proposition M passes, there's a deadline of Sept. 30, 2017 for submitting new guidelines. It's unclear when the Council will settle on and approve the new regulations.

At the state level, California's state government is aiming to have their regulations finalized by January 2018. 

Do you have any clever way for me to remember this?

I don't know about clever, but I did come up with a HighQ haiku:

No one likes Proposition N
It's Proposition M, just think Munchies
To regulate pot

Series: High-Q: Your California pot questions answered

This story is part of Take Two's look at the burgeoning, multi-billion dollar marijuana industry in California, with audience Q&As, explorations of personal narratives and an examination of how the industry is changing the world around our audience.

Read more in this series and call or text us your questions at (929) 344-1948 or tweet reporter Jacob Margolis.

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