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Medicinal Marijuana Petition to Begin Circulating Next Month in Santa Monica

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By Niki Cervantes
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December 10, 2014 -- With their first attempt up in smoke, medical marijuana proponents are gearing up again to collect signatures for a law to allow dispensaries in Santa Monica, a spokesperson said Tuesday.

Santa Monicans For Safe Access will start circulating petitions at the beginning of the new year to allow medical marijuana dispensaries, said Aaron Green of the Afriat Consulting Group, a Burbank-based political consulting firm.

Green, the medical marijuana group’s campaign manager, said specific language for the proposed initiative is still being finalized.  He said backers are analyzing ordinances elsewhere in California to see which have been most effective. He did not say which cities are being studied.

However, the proposed initiative would ensure that dispensaries are “neighborhood friendly,” do not “impinge” on family neighborhoods or lead to an “overabundance” of such collectives, Green said.

In May, two residents filed paperwork for an initiative allowing two dispensaries in Santa Monica. But no signatures had been filed by the end of the 180-day deadline, which was in October, said City Clerk Sarah Gorman.
 
Gorman said that to qualify for the ballot, signatures from 15 percent of the registered voters are needed.  Gorman’s office first determines if enough signatures have been submitted. If so, the signatures go to County officials to determine whether those who have signed are registered voters.

As with the first go-around, organizers have 180 days to submit the signatures to the City Clerk.

Green said he expects his organization to circulate the petitions for between 30 and 60 days and that if enough signatures are collected, a special election will be called.
That is not the only option, however.

The City Council can decide to adopt an ordinance that would establish medical-marijuana collectives, as sought by the initiative, or adopt a modified ordinance, Green said.

Green added that he believes residents will support those who need to use marijuana for medically legitimate purposes. Moreover, he said, the dispensaries would not be built near  “homes, schools, parks or religious institutions.”

Under the original proposal,  the City’s Municipal Code would have been amended to allow for two dispensaries, set a tax of around 4 percent ($40 for every $1,000 of total receipts) for medical marijuana-related businesses and bar dispensaries within 650 feet of a school and 500 feet of a public facility.

The measure also would have required mandatory background checks for managers of the dispensaries, which would be closed from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m. and monitored around the clock by closed circuit television. The proposed initiative also would ban other medicinal collective activities of five or more persons.

According to medical marijuana law experts, one of the number of drawbacks to the initiative is the limiting and banning of collective activity, which allows patients who use medical marijuana to join with others to grow and use their own medical marijuana without fear of prosecution.  This is also known as “collective activity.”
Critics also worry the initiative would  wrest control from the City Council.


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