Photo via Wikimedia Commons.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

It’s election day in Los Angeles and across America, but the Los Angeles City Council is already looking to next year as members voted Tuesday 13-0 to place on the March ballot a measure that would restore the city’s ability to develop regulations for a variety of marijuana business activity.

The city action came as California voters weighed in Tuesday on Proposition 64, which would legalize the recreational use of marijuana and subject sales of the drug to taxation.

Medical marijuana dispensaries and other types of businesses are currently banned in Los Angeles under Proposition D. The ballot measure advanced by the council Tuesday would allow the city to repeal the ban and replace it with a new set of rules for different types of marijuana businesses.

Any changes to the city’s marijuana regulations under the existing ban can only be made by going back to the voters.

If approved, the city measure would give the city tools to enforce its regulations. Businesses operating without a license or flouting city rules could face civil fines, criminal penalties and the threat of their power and water service getting shut off.

The city measure also would allow for gross receipts taxes to be imposed on marijuana business activity, including the sale of general-use and medical cannabis, delivery services and manufacturing. The taxes range from $10 to $100 per every $1000 of gross receipts, depending on the type of business.

In addition to the potential fallout of statewide legalization of recreational marijuana, the city measure was also motivated by a state law going into effect Jan. 1, 2018 that requires municipalities to set up some type of permitting or licensing procedure for marijuana-related activity.

With about a year to develop these procedures, the City Council plans to solicit feedback from the public over the next few months. Hearings have been scheduled for Nov. 29 in the council chamber at Los Angeles City Hall, and Dec. 7 at Van Nuys City Hall, 14410 Sylvan St.

David Sparer, who says he runs a marijuana cultivation business in Los Angeles, urged the council Tuesday to include marijuana manufacturers in its permitting plan.

“We currently operate in the city and employ about 18 people with an average salary of $40 an hour, and we want to continue doing so in Los Angeles,” Sparer said. “So please provide licensing for our business with responsible taxation and legislation for us.”

The city’s ballot measure could compete with an initiative authored by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770, a labor union, and the UCBA Trade Association, which consists of dispensaries that were given immunity to continue operating under Proposition D despite the ban.

Harvey Englander, spokesman for the trade association, said their board still needs to decide whether to continue with their initiative, now that the city is moving forward with its own measure.

“We’re studying (the city’s measure) very closely and when we see the final wording, our UCBA board will come together to make a decision about the 2017 election,” he said.

Their initiative, which is also headed to the March ballot, calls for giving permitting priority to 135 businesses that have been allowed to operate under the Proposition D ban, and includes taxation and permitting provisions.

The city measure that moved forward Tuesday also appears to contain a provision to prioritize the Proposition D-immune medical marijuana dispensaries.

—City News Service

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