SANTA ANA – Proponents of medical marijuana want to place on the November ballot in Santa Ana an initiative to allow medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in the city. A group called the Committee to Support Medical Marijuana Ballot Initiative on Tuesday turned in to the city clerk’s office documents to circulate a petition in support of the initiative, which proponents say would be the first of its kind in California. The initiative would, said Kandice Hawes, allow dispensaries to operate under certain guidelines, for instance, limiting hours to 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., forbidding loitering and smoking on the premises, and restricting patients to 21 and older, unless there’s a parent or guardian. She said the guidelines were worked out after proponents met with police to learn about resident complaints. It also calls for an additional 2 percent sales tax to benefit the city’s general fund.
“We feel that people do want medical marijuana collectives,” Hawes said. “They want them to be controlled and safe, and they want the participation of the city and the police departments. Also, the medical marijuana collectives want to do things the right way, and that’s why we’re moving forward with the initiative so they can operate like any other business in Santa Ana, so that cannabis doesn’t end up on the street or in the hands of gang members. If they close those collectives, that’s what’s going to happen.” The measure would allow 20 businesses that support the rules to operate, a number she says is appropriate for a city the size of Santa Ana, but allows for more. Hawes said that police officials have told her that 62 dispensaries operate in the city. Hawes said that if something isn’t done to halt city efforts to close dispensaries, they could be gone within a year. She said that in the past four months, nine dispensaries have closed as a result of city enforcement efforts. In 2007, the City Council passed a measure that outlaws storefront medical-marijuana dispensaries, but left the door open for hospitals and other state-licensed care centers to provide the drug. Residents, nonetheless, have complained about a proliferation of marijuana dispensaries, especially along 17th Street. Enforcement of the ordinance is handled by the city’s code enforcement staff.
Persistent violators are referred for possible civil or criminal litigation. The proposed measure would limit collectives to certain commercial and industrial zones, and only allow those operating before Dec. 31 to continue. They would be limited to locations at least 600 feet from public schools and parks. Jay Trevino, executive director of the city’s Planning & Building Agency, which handles code enforcement, declined to comment until he had time to research recent enforcement efforts and review the proposed measure. In an interview last year, Trevino said that the agency first issues administrative citations, rather than taking every dispensary to court. He said that results in quicker compliance. “Our experience is that landlords are often unaware of the real nature of the business who rented their building – and when they find out after getting an administrative citation from the city – will frequently ask the tenants to leave,” Trevino said in a story published last November. Often, though, dispensaries will reopen at another location. California voters in 1996 passed Proposition 215, which legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes through community collectives. It is still illegal to possess, cultivate or use marijuana for recreational use. Possession or use of any type of marijuana – medical or otherwise – is illegal under federal law. Cities across Orange County have been grappling with the issue for years.
Just last month, the Garden Grove City Council voted to suspend the registration of medical marijuana dispensaries because of recent court cases, as well as a federal crackdown on California’s marijuana clinics. Hawes said that the initiative, if approved, wouldn’t prevent federal enforcement efforts. “City officials will not be required to violate any federal criminal statute,” the language says, adding in another section that city officials are forbidden “from cooperating with Federal Officials with an intention of interfering with the operation of the cooperatives/collectives listed in this Initiative.” “As it is, if the feds come in, there’s nothing the dispensaries can do,” Hawes said. “That’s a risk that they are taking. We think it’s important for voters to decide if they want medical marijuana in the community. We’re hopeful that the city won’t call on the feds, and trust the voters to make their decision.” Hawes is executive director of Orange County NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) and is working on the effort with Marla James, director of Orange County Americans for Safe Access. Hawes said a PAC has been set up for the initiative, which is separate from her organization. She estimates the campaign would cost less than $40,000, given the resources, such as office space and equipment, that medical marijuana collectives have volunteered. Following Tuesday’s filing of intent to circulate a petition, city officials have 15 days to provide a ballot title and summary. Proponents would then begin gathering the nearly 5,000 signatures needed to place the measure on the ballot, Hawes said.
via : The Orange County Register
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