Earlier this morning, the California Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, ruled that communities have the right to ban medical marijuana clinics from operating in their city limits using local zoning and land use ordinances. Currently, about 200 California communities maintain such bans using their zoning authority. Los Angeles, where cannabis clubs are as common as Starbucks, isn’t one of the places with a pot dispensary ban, but that doesn’t mean the city hasn’t wrestled with the issue of cannabis clinics for years.
In fact, if you visit a Los Angeles medical marijuana dispensary this very month, you’re likely to get an earful of voter information along with your bag of cannabis. That’s because there are two big competing marijuana initiatives on the May ballot, Proposition D and Proposition F. There is another pot initiative on the ballot, Prop. E, but backers of that measure have thrown their support behind Prop. D, so it’s considered a non-player in the issue.
The backers of each proposition say passage of their measure would help end the long debate in Los Angeles over how best to regulate the city’s booming medical pot business. That business has been good for medical marijuana patients, who often use the pot to relieve chronic pain, but it’s been bad for some L.A. residents who complain that their neighborhoods have been blanketed by pot clinics. Complaints about the dispensaries have led some L.A. elected officials to advocate a complete ban on the dispensaries.
Proposition D says it will bring peace to L.A.’s marijuana dispute by limiting the number of dispensaries to 135, all of which have operated since September of 2007. But Prop. F would exempt from that numerical limit dwellings where three or fewer people cultivate marijuana for patients. The measure would also increase the municipal tax on marijuana dispensaries from $50 to $60 for each $1,000 of gross receipts earned.
Proposition F goes a different direction by not proposing a cap on the number of dispensaries allowed in Los Angeles. Its backers instead emphasize how under their measure marijuana clinics would have to register with the city and meet certain operational standards. Those include keeping a certain distance from schools and parks and requiring background checks for dispensary employees. Like Proposition D, Prop. F also increases the tax on marijuana clinics from $50 to $60 for every $1,000 earned.
Supporters of Prop. D say limiting the number of cannabis clinics in L.A. is the best and most practical way to deal with public and political opposition to the marijuana clinics while keeping dispensaries open.
Proponents of Prop. F say 135 clinics just aren’t enough for a city the size of L.A. They also argue that limiting the number of cannabis clinics will lead to marijuana “superstores” in L.A. controlled by a chosen few who have a lock on the market.
Listen below to hear from dispensary operators on each side of the issue.