Second set of marijuana initiative signatures turned in, could trigger special election


A Los Angeles-based law firm submitted signatures Thursday for a medical marijuana initiative that could spur a special election in Costa Mesa next year.

Attorney David R. Welch presented 10,905 signatures to the city clerk’s office, which did a preliminary check before sending the signatures to the county registrar for verification.

The initiative marks the second time this year that interested parties have gathered signatures to allow storefront medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in Costa Mesa, where they are banned.


In September, organizers of the ARRO Initiative, or Act to Restrict and Regulate the Operation of Medical Marijuana Businesses, submitted 11,080 signatures to City Hall. Those are awaiting verification from the county registrar by Oct. 29.

Either initiative would require 15% of Costa Mesa’s electorate, or about 7,400 verified signatures, to qualify for a special election.

The second initiative has similar provisions to ARRO, which limits the number of dispensaries in the city to eight.

This one would limit dispensaries in Costa Mesa to four, provided they are at least 1,000 feet apart. In addition, dispensaries could not abut residences and would need to be at least 1,000 feet from schools and 600 feet from parks, libraries or licensed child-care facilities.

The initiative also allows the City Council to permit more than four dispensaries, Welch said.

“What sets it apart is that it grants the council the ability to change it for Costa Mesa,” he said. “The last thing Costa Mesa wants is to vote on a law that’s good today but bad tomorrow.”

The proposal would implement a 6% sales tax. The storefronts could be open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., with no minors or alcohol allowed.

Welch said one reason Costa Mesa was chosen as a location for the initiative is because its voters were favorable to past medical marijuana-related legislation.

“It was a friendly electorate,” he said. “You have a community that’s not opposed to it.”

Welch said similar proposals are happening in Santa Monica and Santa Ana.

Welch’s firm was a contributor to Santa Ana’s Measure BB, which is up for voter approval Nov. 4.

In August, Costa Mesa Councilman Gary Monahan, with help from the city attorney’s office, proposed another medical marijuana law before the council that he contended gave the city sufficient control. It did not limit the amount of permissible dispensaries, but it would have restricted their locations and prohibited on-site doctor recommendations.

Monahan had hoped the proposal would go on the Nov. 4 general election ballot, but it failed to find any support from his council colleagues.


What’s next?

According to city election code, if the county registrar verifies the signatures and there are enough for a special election, the petition would go to the City Council for certification.

Council members then could: Adopt the law as is, without calling for a special election; order a special election; ask for a 30-day report to explore the law’s potential effects on the community.

Those effects include the petition’s legality, as well as any fiscal, business or land-use concerns.

City officials said it is possible for the marijuana initiatives to be presented in the same election, but there is also a chance each initiative could have its own election.