Pot Activists Strike Back Over LA Dispensaries

By Ben Feuerherd 01/04/13

The city council must now either accept that MMJ dispensaries operating in LA, or put the question to voters.

How prevalent will pot dispensaries be in LA?
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Los Angeles’ pro-pot activists have struck back against city lawmakers in the ongoing battle over medical marijuana dispensaries. An initiative to keep some medical pot shops open there—against the wishes of the council—garnered enough signatures (41,138) by Wednesday night to qualify for the city's mayoral ballot in May. This latest development follows the city council's reversal of its total ban on storefront MMJ sales last fall, when activists also gathered enough support to place a repeal on the primary ballot in March. City lawmakers now have three options: enact the initiative, call a special election, or allow voters to decide in the mayoral election. City Councilman Paul Koretz tells the LA Times that the new ballot drives have “forced our hand.” He hopes that the council and the pot activists will reach an agreement, noting that the initiative only calls for 100 dispensaries to remain open, out of a total of over 700. 

An alternative measure, which would allow a much larger number of dispensaries to operate in LA, could also appear on May's ballot. Advocates of the initiative that was approved Wednesday seek to preserve only dispensaries that were open prior to 2007. But the more liberal initiative would allow dispensaries that opened at any time, subject to certain requirements. An advocate for the compromise option says: “Our initiative is something that would be more desirable for the community.” But supporters of the more liberal measure see it as a free enterprise issue, arguing that backers of the first initiative “want to create a small monopoly for themselves.”

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Benjamin Feuerherd is a city reporter at the New York Post. He has previously worked for The Daily Beast and NBC. You can find him on Linkedin and Twitter