Ed. Note: Ordinance D won with 62% of the vote. Ordinance F lost with 41%. Allison Margolin wrote this blog before the election.
On May 21, Los Angeles voters get to elect a new mayor and decide on how to regulate the city's many dispensaries.
Let’s start with the good news. The ballot is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. As an advocate for the decriminalization of all drugs, and a proponent of the right to use marijuana for any purpose, I was thrilled to open my absentee ballot and see in black and white three of the four ordinances on the ballot devoted to regulating medical marijuana. The fact of that reality - that there are three initiatives and of a ballot that's 75% marijuana - is a thrill in and of itself.
My law partner Raza Lawrence and I were discussing the election and how it may be better to vote for all the ordinances in order to ensure that one of them garners more than 50% of the vote. However, considering the marijuana ordinances represent so much of the ballot I highly doubt, having looked at the actual wording, that an educated voter in Los Angeles would choose not to vote for any of them.
According to the ballot, “If any or all of the three competing measures are approved by a majority of voters, only the one ballot measure that receives the most votes will become effective.” This means if you’re voting for mayor, you should vote on a marijuana ordinance too.
All advocates of safe access to marijuana should favor Ordinance F, which reads in part: "It is time the People take control of the situation and pass strict but reasonable regulation of medical marijuana." It allows for the market to dictate the number of collectives. It also indicates that those guilty of violating certain zoning restrictions would only be guilty of misdemeanors. Of course, I would prefer that these violations be punished as infractions, with no possible jail time, but this one is the best of the three.
Ordinance D, on the other hand, limits the number of medical marijuana dispensaries to those that were in existence by November 2007 (135 total), thereby opening up the 1,000 or so other dispensaries, meaning all the people who work there, to criminal (most likely) felony charges. It was drafted by the City of Los Angeles and put on the ballot by the City Council.
Ordinance E is so similar to D that it's been abandoned by its supporters. (Ed. Note: It also lost.) So the choice is F or D.
If no ordinance passes, that will result in the City Council being able to ban collectives in the wake of the California Supreme Court’s recent ruling allowing for such bans under cities’ municipal powers.
We don't need any more legislation that the police and local District Attorney office can use as a basis to try to felonize more medical marijuana patients, growers and distributors. Even before 19 states and the District of Columbia enacted medical marijuana statutes, marijuana was the nation’s and our state’s number one cash crop. It's also now affording employment opportunities to Angelinos, many of who would be out of work if dispensaries are shut down.
Ordinances F and D both require background checks and non-profit operation, which just like in our state law, is not defined. Yet, if there is a monopoly of dispensaries not dictated by the market (as would be the situation under Prop D), won’t that open those dispensaries to serious federal action? (Banks won’t allow collective accounts so under a federal perspective “cash profits” will rocket to tens of millions.)
Instead of regulating dispensaries, we should focus on influencing our Congressional leaders to allow medical marijuana states to be immunized from federal action. Ordinance F aligns our priorities along the right path.