Thursday, August 30, 2012

LA advocates turn to the people to stop the ban

LA advocates turn to the people to stop the ban:

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and coalition partners in the City of Los Angeles will submit more than 50,000 signatures on Thursday calling for a voter referendum to overturn the city’s recent ban on patients’ cooperatives and collectives. It took less than three weeks to gather the signatures, and the number collected far exceeds the 27,485 valid signatures needed to trigger a citywide vote in March. This is a major victory for patients and grassroots advocates who vowed to stop the ban when the City Council adopted it on July 24. Congratulations to everyone who helped out!

The referendum comes just in time. The ban would have become effective on September 6, but the successful petition drive puts enforcement on hold until the City Council rescinds the ban or voters have a chance to decide in March of next year. ASA and our allies on the Committee to Protect Patients and Neighborhoods hope the City Council will use the extra time to move forward with a motion by Council Members Paul Koretz and Dennis Zine to create a new ordinance that will allow for a smaller number of well-regulated patients’ associations in the city.
The City Council has been rattling sabers as the effective date of the ban approached. On August 22, the City Council approved a motion by Council Members Bernard Parks and Jan Perry instructing the Los Angeles Police Department to cooperate with the District Attorney (DA) and Drug Enforcement Administration in closing cooperatives and collectives. This would give the DA the chance to prosecute operators for felonies (as opposed to the misdemeanor specified in the ban), and raised the specter of federal prosecution. This week, the City Council approved a motion by Council Members Ed Reyes and Herb Wesson to divert funds from the City Attorney’s Community Redevelopment Agency budget to enforcement of the ordinance banning medical cannabis cooperatives and collectives.
The city’s rush to enforce is misguided. They can avoid more confusion, delay, and litigation by sitting back down at the table with stakeholders to hammer out a compromise ordinance that works for everyone. Patients and operators agree with the majority of Californians who support regulating and controlling medical cannabis. They just want a sincere effort from law makers and a realistic regulatory framework. The city failed on both front in 2010, when they approved an unworkable and byzantine regulatory scheme that even Council Members had trouble deciphering. The referendum gives new incentive to do a better job with the Koretz/Zine motion for sensible regulations. Let’s hope the City Council takes advantage of this opportunity, so the referendum campaign can be a victory for everyone.
Stakeholders who want to learn more about the referendum and what comes next in Los Angeles should keep an eye on ASA’s Access Southern California Discussion Forum and plan to attend the LA-ASA meeting on Saturday, September 15, at 1:00 PM in the Community Room (#152) at the West Hollywood Gateway Mall, 7100 Santa Monica Blvd. (at La Brea Ave.), West Hollywood, CA 90046.