Tuesday, May 21, Los Angeles voters will determine the fate and future of medical marijuana dispensaries in America's second-largest city. The LA City Council’s struggles to regulate dispensaries have been well documented. But today, LA voters will take matters into their own hands. Here are the basics:
There are three competing measures on the ballot, conveniently lettered “D,” "E," and "F.” A measure must receive more “yes” votes than “no” votes to pass. If no measure achieves that feat, the L.A. medical pot dispensary scene retains its unregulated status and it's back to the drawing board.
Proposition D is the brainchild of the Los Angeles City Council, which has mishandled the dispensary dilemma from the get-go. D is considered stringent as it would reduce the number of LA dispensaries to 135 – those that were in operation before the Council's 2007 arbitrary and ineffectual "moratorium.” Essentially, Prop D is the Council's attempt to eliminate the vast majority of dispensaries.
Prop D would increase dispensary taxes $10 for every $1,000 in gross earnings (to become $60 total) and mandates an 8:00 PM closing time for all dispensaries – which some advocates criticize as unfair to patients who work later shifts. However, the measure would also institute background checks for dispensary workers, which seems like a proper modification. D also establishes the distance dispensaries must keep from schools, parks, and even other medical pot providers. But no such restrictions are placed on the Council's preferred method of medicinal cannabis distribution – three-person collectives growing pot in residential locations.
Ordinance E could be rechristened "the forgotten measure" because the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which collected the signatures, has since abandoned support of E, opting to endorse Prop D instead. However, the measure will appear before voters because it's too late to remove it from the ballot. In the unlikely event E should get the most "yes" votes, it would also limit the number of dispensaries to the pre-moratorium 135 but allow for cultivating collectives of up to five patients and caregivers and would not increase taxes.
On the surface, Ordinance F may seem like the most "radical,” regulation initiative, placed on the ballot by dispensaries opening after 2007 – this much is clear, the federal government and LAPD would not be pleased if F becomes law. Under F, there would be no limit to the number of dispensaries that register with the city, thus allowing all those by-the-book post-moratorium dispensaries to remain in operation. Ordinance F would also allow dispensaries to remain open until 10 PM, more accommodating to some of those with alternative schedules. The tax proposed in F ($60 per $1,000 earned) is the same as that proposed in Prop D and the measure would also require background checks on employees (all managers, employees, and volunteers in fact). Collectives in residential spaces, however, would not be regulated.
Ordinance F includes several regulations not found in the other two measures – including accounting audits and lab testing for pesticides and toxins. It is widely supported by dispensaries that opened after 2007.
Ultimately it comes down to the City Council's vision of a more modest medical pot dispensary presence in the City of Angels versus the majority of dispensaries that don't want to be forced out of business at the ballot.
But no matter where you stand, the important thing is to get out to the polls on May 21 and let your voice be heard!