Second medical pot initiative certified in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES — There are officially two medical marijuana initiatives on the table for California’s largest city now that the city clerk has certified signatures backing a second initiative petition.

This second initiative, which Los Angeles City Clerk June Lagmay announced this week had sufficient signatures, would raise taxes on pot clubs by 20 percent but places no limit on how many can operate as long as they meet certain requirements.

Unlike the first medical marijuana initiative certified at the end of last year, this initiative contains tax provisions adopted by the electorate in 2011 under Proposition M. The LA City Council must submit this proposed ordinance for a vote of the electorate at the next election, which is open to voters. Council members are expected to take up the matter before Jan. 30.

The City Clerk’s office also announced Monday that City Council should address the first certified medical marijuana initiative before Jan. 23, a week earlier than previously reported. Council members must adopt the proposed ordinance as is, call a special election, or place it on the May 21 general election ballot.

Proponents for the first initiative, dubbed a “limited immunity plan” because it would bar the city from prosecuting 100 cannabis dispensaries that opened before Sept. 14, 2007, submitted 70,619 signatures.

Proponents of the second initiative submitted 67,601 signatures and believe the “limited immunity plan” wouldn’t guarantee enough access to patients.

Aaron Green, spokesman for Angelinos for Safe Access, the proponents of the second initiative, spoke against the first initiative’s “arbitrary date in 2007” disqualifying pot shops that opened afterward. He told SFBay:

“Our initiative doesn’t wade into the waters of trying to violate the equal protection of some medical marijuana collectives versus others. We focus on providing patient care.”

But Rigo Valdez, vice president and director of organizing for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770, a proponent of the first initiative, expressed concern that the second initiative allows an unlimited number of pot shops so long as they meet proximity and other requirements. In contrast, he said of his group’s plan:

“This initiative strikes a good balance between preserving safe access for patients and protecting neighborhoods from proliferation of too many dispensaries.”

Proponents of the first initiative have been working with the City Attorney on the language of a similar ordinance by Councilman Paul Koretz. Their hope to strike a compromise is fueled by a desire to secure a policy sooner. Council members could vote on Koretz’s ordinance before the initiatives go before voters in May.

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