A group of Los Angeles medical marijuana professionals and advocates submitted 50,000 signatures today supporting a petition to rescind the city’s ban on cannabis dispensaries, which is scheduled to take effect Sept. 6.
It’s an extremely positive development on several fronts, giving the industry a realistic shot at stifling the ban, possibly providing dispensaries with some breathing room and showing the power of a coordinated, focused effort to unite the MMJ community.
At the very least, the move could delay the implementation of the ban while local officials attempt to validate the signatures, according to the Los Angeles Times. If 27,400 signatures are deemed valid, the measure will qualify for the next municipal election on March 5, allowing voters to decide the fate of dispensaries in the city. In that scenario the ban would be suspended until the election.
That’s certainly good news for the estimated 800 to 1,000 dispensaries in the city, most of which have been preparing to shut down next week (some had planned to stay open and challenge the ban). But it’s unclear how the city will respond to the referendum effort. The councilman who spearheaded the move to drive dispensaries from the city indicated that Los Angeles will still seek to force cannabis centers to close, saying officials “will enforce state and federal laws on marijuana” even if the ban is suspended. So dispensaries that stay open might face criminal prosecution and fines.
It’s also worth pointing out that the signature drive could still come up short, even though organizers gathered nearly twice the number needed. In some similar MMJ efforts elsewhere (such as Arkansas), more than 50% of submitted signatures were thrown out for various reasons.
The situation in Los Angeles is now a complete mess, as there’s no clear path forward at this point. Dispensary owners should be on the phone with an MMJ lawyer pronto for guidance on how to proceed.