Owners of cannabis businesses in the city of Los Angeles are closely watching the upcoming election, hoping voters pass Measure M, a City Council-backed proposal that would lay the groundwork for lawmakers to begin implementing a local regulatory system for the industry.
Given the overwhelming support voters showed for marijuana legalization in November’s statewide recreational pot referendum, supporters of Measure M should feel comfortable predicting victory – and most say they are. However, due to bickering among local cannabis business factions this fall, there is a second initiative, Measure N, before L.A. voters on March 7, which has raised some concern despite the fact that Measure N’s backers have withdrawn their support in favor of Measure M.
“Measure N could definitely be confusing for people who don’t know the situation,” said dispensary operator Virgil Grant, co-founder of cannabis business trade group Southern California Coalition, which is backing Measure M. “If you read both, you might think that N is the better one.”
Vanessa Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for City Council President Herb Wesson, said in an email that the councilman, who has spearheaded efforts to address local regulations, was hopeful voters will pass Measure M. She added that the legislative body would have final authority to tweak any part of the new marijuana regulations, including the tax structure, in Los Angeles going forward based on community input.
“The City Council retains the ability to finalize all cannabis-related regulations by ordinance and will thoroughly vet all proposals at that time,” Rodriguez said. “Everything is on the table and the council president is encouraging a robust public discussion on future policy.”
That robust public discussion is partly responsible for the existence of competing ballot measures in the first place.
From a big-picture perspective, measures M and N are very similar. Both would establish a licensing system for cannabis businesses that follows the state’s model; both call for a local tax structure for medical and recreational pot; and both would levy fines against persons operating commercial marijuana concerns in violation of those laws.
While there are subtle differences on those issues, the biggest schism, which caused last fall’s dustup among cannabis trade groups, is over the baseline number of pot shops awarded licenses, and how much priority should be given to existing medical marijuana operators who have a special designation under Proposition D, the current city weed law.
Measure N calls for no more than 135 medical licenses – the same number of medical marijuana dispensaries allowed to operate under Proposition D, with priority given to “existing medical marijuana businesses compliant with current city law.”