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By: Los Angeles News Group
The fact there are three initiatives concerning medical marijuana on L.A.'s May 21 ballot is a reminder that the proliferation of dispensaries is a complicated problem with a haze of proposed solutions.
Ideally, the question of how to regulate the dispensaries already would have been dealt with by state leaders, not left to a city's voters to answer. But seeing that it has come to this, voters must choose the most prudent option. That is Proposition D, which would permit a limited number of dispensaries in Los Angeles and is written to comply with court rulings.
In addition to Proposition D, there are Proposition E and Proposition F. If more than one of them receives majority approval, the one receiving the most votes will be the winner.
The winner is likely to be either D or F. The creators of E switched their support to D after the Los Angeles City Council put D on the ballot as a compromise between the other two.
Both D and F would increase the city's gross-receipts tax from $50 to $60 per $1,000 of dispensaries' revenue. There the similarity ends.
D would permit only the 135 dispensaries that have been open since before a city moratorium was put in place in 2007, would require them to be up to date on taxes and would enforce restrictions on their locations, but it would impose fewer other restrictions on their operation. Measure F would permit dispensaries that opened after 2007 in addition to the older ones, but it would impose more restrictions in the form of background checks for personnel, tests for pesticides and toxins in marijuana, a ban on children entering the facilities, and a requirement that facilities provide places for patients to park.
Opponents of F say barring kids might sound logical but would make it hard for some parents to use the dispensaries. What would they do with their small children - leave them in the conveniently parked car?
Such criticism may sound as if the debate has gotten too deep in the (pardon the expression) weeds. But it illustrates how medical-marijuana issues affect real people with real problems, such as real physical discomfort.
When California voters passed Prop. 215 in 1996, they intended it to allow patients, with a doctor's recommendation, to cultivate and possess pot for personal use. The Compassionate Care Act was not meant to create hundreds of dispensaries of various kinds, or to be the shortcut to recreational pot use that many Angelenos suspect it has become.
Absent statewide policies and consistent court rulings - and given the federal government's still-hard line drug laws - the challenge for lawmakers in city after city is to figure out what they may and should do to create a system that patients and the community can trust.
Neither D nor F comes with a halo. D is backed by unions, who want a foothold in the medpot industry.
But D would give L.A. a number of dispensaries and restrictions that won't overwhelm law enforcement.
Until California leaders produce a statewide policy, a vote for Prop. D is the best choice for L.A. voters.