City council approves third medical marijuana measure to appear on May ballot

Jason Gallaher

After medical marijuana dispensaries were put in jeopardy of a ban last July, the Los Angeles City Council voted 8-4 to approve its own medical marijuana measure to appear on the May ballot.

Ordinance No. 182443, the measure proposed by Councilman Paul Koretz, would allow roughly 100 medical marijuana dispensaries to remain open, increase taxes from $50 per $1,000 in gross receipts to $60, and restrict dispensaries from being located near K-12 schools and churches.

Christopher Koontz, planning deputy for Koretz who has worked
closely on developing the medical marijuana measure, said the reason behind proposing this measure included finding a
compromise between having a ban on marijuana dispensaries and letting a
limitless amount of them become operational.

“I think the goal is
to come up with something that provides access to legitimate medical
marijuana clients, which do exist,” Koontz said. “But we do have
problems with crime and people visiting dispensaries that have no
legitimate need.”

This is the third medical marijuana measure to be placed on the ballot. The other two measures incorporate parts of Koretz’s measure, but not all.

One of these measures calls for the same increase in taxes from $50 to $60 per $1,000 gross receipts, but would not limit the number of dispensaries allowed to operate. The other measure calls for the approximately 100 dispensaries that opened before the 2007 marijuana moratorium to remain open.

This moratorium was intended to prevent additional marijuana dispensaries from opening. With loopholes in the law, however, as many as 1,000 dispensaries are suspected of being operational.

Some CSUN students feel the amount of marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles should not be limited.

“Honestly, if they’re legalizing marijuana, they might as well not put a limit on dispensaries,” said Araz Apokian, 18, freshman creative writing major.

Koretz has a personal tie to the issue of access to medical marijuana through friends that have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, Koontz said.

“(Koretz) had friends he feels have had their life extended from this medicine,” Koontz said. “Patience with HIV/AIDS have no appetite, and this medicine helps them have the appetite their bodies need.”

There was mixed reception regarding Koretz’s medical marijuana measure among city council members.

Councilman Mitchell Englander, who represents Northridge as part of the 12th District, is against all three marijuana measures on the ballot.

“I voted against putting the issue on the ballot because (it) would allow retail pot shops to remain in operation in the Los Angeles,” Englander said in a statement. “These shops not only violate state and federal law, they are a blight and nuisance to our communities and in several instances have been the site of armed take over robberies and homicides.”

Some students felt the need to put dispensaries in locations away from schools.

“Dispensaries shouldn’t be directly across the street from schools,” said Andrew Martinez, 25, senior history major. “Other than that it doesn’t really matter where they are.”

Councilman Eric Garcetti, who is running for mayor of Los Angeles, voted in favor of the measure.

“Legitimate patients with a physician recommendation should have access to medicine,” he said in a statement. “Los Angeles needs a well-regulated system that protects community and medical needs.”

Councilwoman Jan Perry, who is also running for mayor, was absent for the vote.

The three medical marijuana measures on the May 21 ballot are an attempt to end the uncertainty that surrounded marijuana dispensaries in 2012.

In July, the council voted unanimously to ban medical marijuana dispensaries. Then in October, council members voted 11-2 to lift the ban.

Angelinos for Safe Access is behind the other medical marijuana measure calling for no limit on dispensaries. It remains in support of that initiative.

Americans for Safe Access has now abandoned its measure in support of Koretz’s. This organization originally gained enough signatures to get the initiative allowing dispensaries established before the marijuana moratorium to remain open on the ballot.

“It made little sense to be competing with an initiative so similar,” said Kris Hermes, spokesperson for Americans for Safe Access. “We decided to support the initiative proposed by the Los Angeles City Council because it is more likely to have more momentum and more likely to be passed.”