A medical marijuana dispensary is seen on South Robertson Boulevard. (Los Angeles Times )
Way at the bottom of Tuesday’s ballot are three confusing propositions -- Measures D, E and F -- that have to do with medical marijuana. Voters can’t be blamed if they feel frustrated and unsure of what to do when confronted by three alternative approaches to the same issue (two of which seem extremely similar). The Times' editorial board has offered its opinion on the choice among the three.
But just to make things complicated, the landscape has changed somewhat since the measures qualified for the ballot. Indeed, just last week, with only 15 days to go before the election, the California Supreme Court finally rendered a decision in a case that has been making its way through the courts for years. Because the ballot measures are designed to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries in the city of Los Angeles -- and because the court case claims to tell cities what they can and can’t do in that regard -- should Angelenos be reconsidering their choices?
Well, yes and no. The California Supreme Court decision -- in City of Riverside vs. Inland Empire Patients Health and Wellness Center Inc. -- doesn’t in fact change all that much. It deals mostly with one relatively narrow issue: May cities ban marijuana dispensaries altogether? Given that Californians in 1996 approved Proposition 215 to make medical marijuana available to seriously ill people, are cities therefore precluded from banning dispensaries? Wouldn’t a ban be a violation of Proposition 215 and the law the Legislature subsequently passed to implement it?
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Those are reasonable questions that cities have indeed been wrestling with. But the court concluded that no, it would not be a violation and yes, a city may ban dispensaries. Nothing in Proposition 215 or the follow-up state law, the court concluded, bars a municipality from banning dispensaries as a nuisance or from determining that “facilities for the distribution of medical marijuana will not be permitted to operate within its borders.”
So what does that mean for Los Angeles and Measures D, E and F? It means that if the measures don’t pass, the city could decide, instead, to ban dispensaries entirely.
But should it? And will it?
The reality is that the city isn’t seriously considering a ban at the moment. It did consider one in 2012, but supporters of medical marijuana quickly gathered enough signatures to qualify a measure for the ballot that would have overturned the ban. People in Los Angeles, after all, overwhelmingly support providing medical marijuana to those who might benefit from it. The likelihood of a ban, although it would be legal according to the Supreme Court, seems low.
The Times’ editorial page concluded that Measure D is the best of the three measures on the ballot because it balances the desire of Californians and Angelenos to make medical marijuana accessible with the city’s very real need to be able to impose and enforce rules on dispensaries. That logic still holds.
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