Medical marijuana collectives on Monday unveiled specifics of a proposed ballot initiative that would regulate storefront operators and generate additional revenue through a sales tax to the city of San Diego.
The 18-page ordinance, which had been foreshadowed for two weeks, would create operating zones for dispensaries and levy a 2.5 percent sales tax on their retail transactions. It also would impose a fee for the city to recover its expenses, establish security measures and hours of operation and mandate inspections and certification by a third-party group.
“After waiting several years for the city of San Diego to enact a reasonable ordinance to allow safe access, unfortunately the city failed to do that,” said Jessica McElfresh, an attorney who worked with the Patient Care Association to draft the proposal. “We feel that we have to move forward with the initiative process, although we do intend to make another overture to City Council to try to persuade them to pass this as a reasonable ordinance.”
The proposal for the November ballot comes as local and federal prosecutors continue their coordinated campaign to shut down medical marijuana dispensaries across California.
Dozens of collectives have acquiesced since U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy began mailing letters in October warning that marijuana sales were illegal under federal law and landlords risked criminal prosecutions and property seizures if they didn’t close. City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, citing the lack of local regulations, also has issued letters and brought civil complaints against collectives that failed to comply with his requests to shut down.
Opponents of the storefront operations contend that the dispensaries have little regard for any regulations, including adhering to state law, and were merely trying to protect and pad their own pocketbooks in the name of patient access.
Scott Chipman, chairman of San Diegans for Safe Neighborhoods, said he was skeptical that collective operators would conform to all of the rules in addition to health and safety laws requiring them to list all ingredients in their products.
Chipman also said the proposal would do little to allay concerns about marijuana landing in the hands of children. Still, he would not speculate whether his or any other another group would spend money to formally oppose the initiative.
“I can say we would certainly discourage San Diegans from signing their names for an ordinance that is moot before it is enacted because it violates federal law,” Chipman said. “And we are going to continue to encourage federal agencies to enforce federal law in San Diego.”
Earlier this year, the same group pushing the initiative collected enough signatures to successfully repeal a city ordinance that it deemed too restrictive. They remain confident that the initiative would qualify for the November ballot, McElfresh said.
“What people told us routinely is they want dispensaries to have to obey operational requirements. We have done that,” she said. “We have also heard routinely that they want dispensaries to be located reasonable distances from residences and areas where children congregate. Done.”
The proposal would require dispensaries to operate away from residences and at least 600 feet from schools, playgrounds and other areas where children gather. It spells out requirements for security, sets operating hours from 7 a.m. to midnight and establishes rules for their appearance.
Proponents of the measure may begin collecting signatures in about three weeks. They will have six months to gather 62,057 valid signatures from registered voters to qualify the measure for the November 2012 ballot.
On another front, eight people on Monday filed a claim against the city alleging physical and mental abuse and intentional infliction of emotional distress stemming from their lack of safe, reliable access to medical marijuana as provided by state law. The claim is a precursor to a lawsuit in which the plaintiffs are asking the city to cease enforcement against the dispensaries until new regulations are approved, their attorney Katherine Clifton said.
“But our hope with this case is to focus attention on the true victims of this vengeful witch hunt,” she said.
A spokeswoman for the City Attorney’s Office did not respond to requests for comment.
Randy Wall, a patient named in the claim, was one of two signatories on the ballot initiative along with his mother, a registered nurse. Collective representatives were again quick to concede that they had no influence over the federal crackdown. However, they said residents should have the option to approve common sense rules for medical marijuana that satisfy them as well as the desires of patients and caregivers.
– Article originally from Sign On San Diego.