3rd Medical Marijuana Proposition Sought for L.A. Ballot

A budtender rolls a marijuana cigarette at Perennial Holistic Wellness Center medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles. | Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

The Los Angeles City Council today took an initial step to place a third medical marijuana initiative before voters on the May 21 municipal general election ballot.

Two other measures sponsored by separate medical marijuana coalitions have already qualified for the May ballot.

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One would allow an unlimited number of storefront dispensaries that are certain distance from schools, parks libraries, child care centers, and religious institutions. It would also increase a business tax on cannabis sales to $60 per every $1,000 of sales.

A second so-called "limited immunity" measure would dramatically reduce the number of medical pot shops in the city from hundreds down to about 100, by only allowing those that can prove they were operating prior to Sept. 14, 2007, when the city tried to place a moratorium on new dispensaries.

The council voted 11-1 to move forward with yet a third measure for the May ballot that would be a hybrid of the other two. The plan sponsored by Councilman Paul Koretz would include the tax increase on medical marijuana sales but would also reduce the number by limiting those allowed to the pre-September 2007 marijuana collectives.

Koretz's proposal would also include limitations on hours of operation, require background checks for collective employees, and require dispensaries to be certain distances from each other and sensitive uses like schools and childcare locations.

Koretz said he hoped his proposal would get supporters of the limited immunity initiative -- United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770, the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance, and Americans for Safe Access L.A. -- to rally behind his proposal. Koretz said he included the increased tax on marijuana in his proposal because it would be "a big carrot" for voters. The revenue could also cover the cost for the city to enforce the new ordinance, he said. However, Koretz said, the measure that qualified for the ballot that includes a tax would not significantly reduce the number of storefront dispensaries, including some that create problems for neighborhoods.

Koretz said he is working with the groups to alleviate their concerns, which include the minimum distance required between dispensaries and the length of time for qualified dispensaries to comply with the proposed law.

The council vote asks the City Attorney to draft language for Koretz's ballot measure. The council has until the end of the month to agree to place the finalized language on the ballot.

Councilman Jose Huizar cast the lone vote opposing Koretz's initiative. Huizar is concerned, in part, about how the city would enforce the initiative, his spokesman Rick Coca said.

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