POT POLITICS - The state Supreme Court's decision on Monday to uphold the right of cities to ban medical marijuana dispensaries is not expected to impact proposals on the May 21 Los Angeles ballot to allow the facilities to open in certain areas.
In a case stemming from Riverside's ban on all medical marijuana clinics by declaring them a public nuisance, the state high court said it was an authority that rested with local government with its land-use laws.
"Land-use regulation in California historically has been a function of local government," the court noted, ruling Riverside had acted properly with its decision to ban all such clinics within its boundaries.
But Los Angeles city officials and others involved in the major issues on the ballot said they did not think the court ruling would impact either of the measures of the city's efforts to control the location of dispensaries.
"I would think if people are opposed to medical marijuana clinics, they would oppose all the measures on the ballot," said Councilman Paul Koretz, one of the primary authors of Proposition D, which would allow 135 clinics in the city.
Los Angeles had tried to have a total ban on the dispensaries, but a measure challenging that qualified for the city ballot and the city developed its own alternative with Proposition D.
Other clinic operators also qualified a measure, Proposition F, that allows more clinics in the city as long as they followed land-use rules on their proximity to schools, parks and religious institutions. A third measure on the ballot, Proposition E, also would allow a limited number of clinics, but its campaign has been abandoned in favor of Proposition D.
Several City Council members, including Jose Huizar, Mitch Englander, Joe Buscaino and Bernard Parks, have come out against all the measures on the ballot.
Brad Hertz, the attorney for Proposition D, said the court ruling made it even more important for voters to approve the measure.
"From our perspective, Proposition D is the best way to secure access to medical marijuana," Hertz said. "If it passes and has the most votes, it means the City Council, if they were to amend or repeal the measure, would have to go to voters for any change."
David Welch, the attorney representing a number of dispensaries supporting Proposition F, said the court ruling "raises the stakes even higher for the medical marijuana measures on the ballot."
Welch argued Proposition D is an effort to eventually allow for a ban on all dispensaries by allowing raids by federal officials to shut them down.
"If (Proposition) D passes, once the dispensaries close, they will never be allowed to open again, eliminating access forever in the city of Los Angeles," Welch said.
The organization Americans for Safe Access said the court ruling shows the need for statewide regulations on dispensaries as a "safe and legal means" for patients to obtain medical marijuana.
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner released a letter urging Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature to "craft sensible medical cannabis guidelines to provide clarity to local governments and, finally, to implement the will of a majority of Californians who believe in compassionate use."
ASA California Policy Director Don Duncan said research shows that well-regulated dispensaries reduce crime in surrounding areas.
"Patients should not be pushed into dark alleys in order to obtain a medicine that has been deemed legal by the voters of California," Duncan said. "The ball is in the legislature's court to establish statewide regulations that both meet the needs of patients and keep communities safe."
Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich said he had expected the ruling.
"A city's decision whether to ban, regulate or limit the number of medical marijuana collectives must be made in an open, public and transparent manner, so that the needs and concerns of all in the community are heard," Trutanich said.
(Rick Orlov covers City Hall for the dailynews.com. where this column first appeared. His Tipoff column appears Mondays. For a daily political fix, go to the Sausage Factory at insidesocal.com/politics. You can contact him at [email protected] ) –cw
Vol 11 Issue 38
Pub: May 10, 2013