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Drugs

L.A. Voters Favor Shutting Down Most Marijuana Dispensaries

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Mon, Apr 15, 2013 at 7:08 AM

click to enlarge PATRICK MORRIS / FLICKR
  • Patrick Morris / Flickr
Do you really want to see 90 percent of the marijuana dispensaries in the city close down?

Apparently you do. An internal poll by the folks backing May ballot Measure D, which would do just that, shows that likely voters favor the proposed city law by a rate of 52 percent. Opponents of the would-be ordinance don't seem to disagree with that:

Garry South, campaign strategist for competing Measure F, which would allow most dispensaries to live on, admits that "D is ahead by more."

He contends that both measures are winning with voters, although D's polling shows that F is more opposed (48 percent) than favored (39 percent) by likely voters. The data shows that 32 percent oppose the stricter measure, D.

Its pollsters interviewed 618 likely voters -- arguably a small sample size -- between March 19 and 21. It claims a plus or minus four percent margin or error.

South said the pro-F camp has done internal polling as well but will not release the numbers because, "If you're ahead you put it out, if not you don't."

But he argued that D is doing better because voters associate its letter with being higher on the ballot, which he says is always an advantage. He says pollsters would normally mention D to likely voters first, giving it a natural bump in their minds.

But perhaps voters aren't getting the message that one measure (D) would shut down 9 out of 10 dispensaries in town, something that might not be palatable to most if they knew the facts:

A Loyola Marymount University poll last last year found that a majority of voters support medical marijuana in L.A.

The backers of F, which would allow dispensaries to stay open so long as they adhered to limited hours, submitted operators to background checks, and stayed away from schools, have taken to advertising in local marijuana publications to get their point across.

click to enlarge yes_on_f_ad.JPG

Mike Shimpock, a consultant for the D campaign, questions the ad strategy, arguing that anyone who votes and also reads the 420 Times will probably support both measures anyway, and that ...

... the average voter is 55, white, a homeowner, and from the Valley. They're not afraid of medical marijuana. They're afraid of illegal dispensaries.

These are the people, he says, who need to be swayed.

F's backers emphasize that some of its facets -- testing pot for pesticides, for example -- actually comprise stricter regulation than what D offers.

D would allow 100 or so dispensaries around since before a failed, 2007 city "moratorium" on pot shops to survive. It's backed by those shops as well as by labor (some cannabis workers have unionized).

By some estimates there are more than 1,000 pot shops in town, a number that could be growing because of the city's lack of current regulation. Last year a referendum overturned City Hall's attempt to shut down all the dispensaries in town.

D was written by the office of City Attorney Carment Trutanich, who in the past opposed dispensaries in any shape or form. It was placed on the ballot by the City Council.

The oldster dispensaries, represented by the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance, had a measure of their own headed for the ballot but decided to throw their weight behind City Hall's, which closely mirrored their proposed ordinance and comes to the same conclusion:

Shutting down all but their own stores is a good thing.

South of F says that when voters figure out what's really going on with D, "support for it plummets."

We'll see.

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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