LA Voters Say Yes to Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

May 22 – Medical marijuana dispensaries will remain open in Los Angeles after voters approved Measure D allowing 175 dispensing collectives to remain open in the city. The election came weeks after the California Supreme Court ruled in the Riverside case that cities may ban dispensaries altogether.

In an election with slim turn out, Measure D earned 193,969 votes (63%). Measure F, which would have allowed any dispensary that met city standards, won only 41% of the vote. Measure D does not require laboratory testing at collectives and provides exemptions for grow operations for three or fewer caretakers and/or patients. Measure F would have exempted all “residential collectives” and required testing. Both measures increased taxes on collective sales from 5% (approved by LA voters in 2011) to 6%.

City councilman Eric Garcetti, who supported Measure D, defeated Wendy Gruel (54-46%) for mayor. Former Assemblyman Mike Feuer, who’s been equivocal in his support for marijuana users’ rights the legislature, defeated less-than-sympathetic Carmen Trutanich for city attorney. Trutanich called for the city to enact a “gentle ban” on dispensaries in January 2012, allowing only patients and caregivers to grow their own medical marijuana and disallowing any money changing hands. That ban passed, but was overturned by an appellate court and repealed by city council on October 2012.

On city council, supporters will lose Dennis Zine, who was defeated in his bid for controller. All three of the most pro-medical marijuana city council candidates will be seated: Former Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez, who voted in favor of SB420, will represent District 6; former State Senator Curran Price, elected to the District 9 seat, has a good record of voting in favor of marijuana reform measures; and Mitch O’Farrell (District 13) has said he has a family member with migraines who uses medical marijuana and “strongly” supported Measure D.

Even Trutanich got on the medical marijuana train during the campaign, telling Business Week that Los Angeles wasn’t inclined to ban marijuana shops even after the Riverside ruling. “The majority of the council would like to have people who are medical-marijuana patients be able to obtain the medicine that the need in order to alleviate whatever pain or ailment that they have,” Trutanich said. Measure D rolls back the number of shops to those originally approved by the Council, and it was put on the ballot as a compromise by that body.

The LA Times also supported Measure D, as did councilmember Bill Rosendahl, whose own cancer brought sympathy from his fellow councilmembers during the long debate on the issue. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union and Americans for Safe Access also supported Measure D. Mayor Villaraigosa supported the “gentle ban” and did not take a position on this year’s ballot measures.

The ordinance takes effect immediately, with the tax measure taking effect at the start of the fiscal year.

Read Measure D.

Stay Informed! Join California NORML’s Email Alert List