Signatures stop pot-shop ban

Danielle Hale

Since medical marijuana advocates collected enough signatures to postpone the ban of marijuana dispensaries, which would have taken place  Sept. 6, the debate over much these shops contribute to the economy has continued.

More than 50,000 signatures were collected when only 27,425 names were required. All of the signatures were turned in  Aug. 30, forcing a temporary suspension of the ban.

Patients of medicinal marijuana are not the only ones rallying against the ban. Many groups and shop workers have come forward, trying to protect the rights of the shops and the workers of the shops. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 770, the shop worker’s union, began unionizing dispensary employees in an effort to help save thousands of local jobs.

The Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance is also working towards the same goal.  It is especially trying to protect those dispensaries that have been registered with the city and in operation for more than 5 years, before a moratorium on new dispensaries was enacted in 2007.

The country’s largest advocate for medical marijuana, Americans for Safe Access, has also been instrumental in the suspension. The ASA first began efforts to stop the ban when the issue was first voted on in July. Thousands of letters from supporters were sent from the ASA detailing stricter regulations on the sale of medical marijuana versus a complete ban.

Over 700 dispensaries in L.A. were ordered to shut down this month. On average, a single dispensary grosses anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million per year and employs upwards of half a dozen people, said the director of the California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Dale Gieringer, during an interview with the Huffington Post.

The unemployment rate in California is currently 10.9 percent and in LA 12.7 percent. If those thousands employed by dispensaries in LA County alone were to lose their jobs, the numbers would soar even higher. And not to mention a loss of millions of dollars in sales taxes, which is generated from dispensaries statewide.

According to Safe Access Now, in 2007 alone, over $100 million in sales taxes was collected from approximately 400 dispensaries throughout California and given to the state. At a time when the California state deficit has hit a devastating $16 billion.

Shirley V. Svorny, economics professor and chairperson of the department of economics at CSUN, believes that the impact will be small. “We will lose the jobs and the sales tax of course,” Svorny said. “(But marijuana should be legalized because) Illegal sales cause crime and hurt people who are not involved in the sales. Not all economists think this way.”

Anthony Reveles, CTVA major, believes the regulations are fine for now.

“You are only allowed to buy so much at a time,” he said. “I would like to see it legalized to help with our country’s debt though, we should take advantage and profit from what we can.”

Signatures are currently being verified and can take up to 15 to 45 days from the day the referendum petition was received to be verified, according to the City Clerk’s Office.