Californians may have voted to make recreational marijuana legal under state law in November, but details about who can grow, make and sell pot products, as well as where pot businesses can put down roots, are still being decided. Those decisions are weighty indeed, considering the market's potential size and the concerns that remain about pot's use. In March, Los Angeles voters will face two ballot measures that offer very different plans for what the city's marijuana marketplace should look like: Measure M, which the City Council proposed, and Measure N, which a trade group for the city's medical marijuana dispensaries sponsored. Measure M is by far the more fair and responsible.
Measure M is actually pretty sparse on the details, and that's a good thing. It would give the City Council and mayor permission to repeal Proposition D — adopted by voters in 2013 to curb the spread of medical marijuana dispensaries — and to replace it with a new set of rules covering all aspects of the industry, from where marijuana businesses can locate and the hours they may operate to how they market their products.
Those initial regulations would be developed and adopted later this year after a series of public hearings. Of course, nobody can predict all the issues that will arise in the new marijuana marketplace. That's why the best part of Measure M is that it gives city leaders the flexibility to tweak, repeal or add new regulations as needed, rather than having to go back to the voters.
The proposal would also impose a local gross receipts tax of 5% for medical cannabis sales (down from the current 6%), 10% for recreational cannabis, and 1%-2% for companies involved in transportation, research and cultivation, which are not currently regulated or taxed by the city. Finally, it would establish criminal and civil penalties for businesses that violate the new marijuana regulations, and authorize the Department of Water and Power to shut off utilities in illegal pot shops.
Measure N, by contrast, would impose an industry-written regulatory scheme on the city, while giving a monopoly over the local marijuana trade to the 135 dispensaries allowed under Proposition D unless the City Council voted to expand the number of permits. It's never a good idea to let an industry write its own regulations.
Fortunately, the backers of "N" decided to abandon their measure (although at too late a date to remove it from the ballot) and support Measure M. Organizers said customers, communities and businesses are best served by working together with city leaders to develop uniform, comprehensive regulations. We agree. Vote yes on Measure M.