Advocates throughout the city are in full force, working to collect more than 27,400 signatures from valid voters in the next few weeks in order to get a referendum on the March ballot that would overturn the city’s medical marijuana dispensary ban.
Los Angeles marijuana lawyers are supportive of any legal effort that would deliver a blow to the city’s 14-0 vote last month.
In order to qualify for the ballot, the signatures have to be collected in the next three weeks. Officials have said that if those signatures are verified and the measure makes it onto the ballot, it will effectively suspend the city’s ordinance outlawing the dispensaries, at least temporarily and likely until the issue could go before voters in March – barring a decision by the state’s Supreme Court prior to that.
This hope is part of the reason that so many dispensaries have yet to close their doors, despite a recent warning from the city attorney’s office that if they don’t, they’ll face misdemeanor charges, up to six months in jail, and heavy fines of up to $2,500 – each day.
You may see the signature collectors outside of Trader Joe’s or other shopping centers, asking if you support medical marijuana and informing you of the recent City Hall decision and how it will inevitably affect patients.
City leaders have touted this as a compromise or a “gentle” ban because medical marijuana isn’t outlawed entirely. Small groups of three or fewer patients and/or caregivers can band together to grow the drug without fear of prosecution.
However, many have pointed out that this is simply not practical, given that it takes a fair amount of time, skill, space and money to effectively grow the drug. Shuttering all local pot shops is akin to cutting off the supply entirely for the people who need it most – the home-bound and the very ill.
A number of dispensary owners had formed their own union in recent months and had contributed a fair amount of money to the election campaigns of a number of council candidates. Thusfar, it hasn’t helped their cause much, though if the issue does make it on the ballot for March, it could be a hot-button topic in the mayoral primary.
That’s because it will share the ballot with those candidates. Given the controversy that has already surrounded the issue, mayoral candidates are unlikely to escape having to address it. It could be an illustration of just how much political muscle the pro-medical marijuana community has.
It’s not clear exactly how soon we may know whether the measure is on the ballot, but it could offer at least a temporary reprieve by businesses hoping to stay open.
Some storefronts are planning to defy the ban regardless, with some saying they had existed prior to the 2007 city moratorium, while others have said their waiting for rulings on a number of pending court cases. However, neither scenario is going to leave an operation necessarily 100 percent protected from prosecution.
That defiance is noble – and may indeed be effective in the end. However, it’s not a battle your dispensary or collective should take up on its own. Consult with an experienced Los Angeles marijuana lawyer to discuss your rights.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.