Voter Input On Medical Marijuana Collectives Considered by City Council

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Suja Lowenthal and co-sponsors, Steve Neal and Al Austin, have placed an item on the September 10 Long Beach City Council agenda requesting updates on a federal court hearing scheduled for today, September 9th, and a recent memorandum distributed by the U.S. Department of Justice containing formal guidelines for federal prosecutors in states that have enacted laws authorizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes. The agenda item also requests the City Attorney to prepare for approval by the City Council a ballot measure providing for the regulation of medical marijuana collectives for the Primary Nominating Election April 8, 2014, giving voters in the City of Long Beach an opportunity to determine the extent to which medical marijuana is regulated within city limits.

In February 2013, a group called the Long Beach Citizens’ and Patients’ Rights PAC filed a 43,159-signature petition to authorize the City of Long Beach to hold a special election whereby voters could decide whether to regulate and tax medical-marijuana dispensaries. Shortly thereafter, the City Clerk determined that the petition failed to meet the threshold of valid signatures for a special election. Long Beach Citizens’ and Patients’ Rights PAC and its lawyers filed a federal lawsuit challenging the City’s decision leading to the federal court hearing on September 9th.

“There appears to be overwhelming support for regulation of medical marijuana going on the ballot,” said Lowenthal. “We believe the City needs to be part of that discussion.”

In 2009, Lowenthal was one of the original co-sponsors of an agenda item seeking to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries that had begun springing up throughout Long Beach. With Council’s direction, City staff developed a permit system, but the ordinance was challenged in court by non-permitted dispensaries and eventually voided by a state Court of Appeal, ruling that Long Beach was violating federal law by regulating dispensaries. Council eventually voted to ban dispensaries rather than allow them to spread uncontrollably throughout the city. The DOJ memorandum and likelihood of a petition eventually qualifying for the ballot may force the issue of regulation to be considered in court once again.

“Expecting patients with painful conditions to get their medical marijuana prescription through drug dealers in back alleys is not the solution,” said Lowenthal. “Whether through the electoral ballot, legislation or court system, Long Beach needs the same authority as other cities and states to regulate this substance in plain public view for the benefit of patients and safety of our residents and businesses.”

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