Last week a core group of quasi-legal marijuana dispensaries in L.A. threw its weight behind Proposition M, the City Council–sponsored measure that would fully legalize the city's current medical pot collectives and likely would provide permitting for future recreational ones. The measure also would expand the number of legit shops and likely allow delivery services such as Speed Weed to operate in town.
That group, the United Cannabis Business Alliance, had qualified its own measure for the March 7 ballot. But it decided not to split the pro-pot vote between two measures that seek to do much of the same. Its "board of directors determined that the best approach to ensure uniform cannabis regulations for patients, communities and cannabis businesses is by working with the Los Angeles City Council rather than continuing to seek voter approval for our own initiative," UCBA president Jerred Kiloh said in a statement.
With the unification of factions, it looks as if City Hall not only will be asking voters to fully legitimize the 135 or fewer medical marijuana dispensaries that currently enjoy "limited legal immunity" but also to support expanding the number of legit shops (medical or recreational) — perhaps to as many as 495, which is what the Southern California Coalition, another coalition of pot shops that's a key backer of the City Council plan, is hoping for.
The passage of California's Proposition 64 last month clears the way for recreational pot shops statewide starting in 2018. Proposition M would issue city permits to pre-existing medical marijuana dispensaries and might allow conversion to recreational sales.
The UCBA didn't previously seem as gung-ho about expanding the number of dispensaries in town. "Nobody wants an unlimited number of dispensaries," Harvey Englander of government-relations consulting firm Englander Knabe & Allen, which represents UCBA, told us previously.
But UCBA now appears to be on board with whatever the council comes up with. Exact language for the measure has yet to be revealed. "The marketplace will tell you the number," Englander said recently in a phone interview.
However, he noted that zoning limits — dispensaries can't be too close to schools, parks, churches or one another — will provide a natural barrier to an oversupply of storefronts selling weed. Some experts estimate that as many as 1,500 marijuana storefronts — the vast majority of them fully illegal — exist in town.
Englander's organization still appears to be opposed to legalizing third-party delivery services, such as Speed Weed. "State law says you can't have it except for brick-and-mortar," Englander said, referring to delivery directly from a patient's dispensary.
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The Southern California Coalition this week welcomed the UCBA's support. "It's really great to see the UCBA trade organization come join those of us who have been fighting for an equitable, inclusive model," coalition vice president Erik Hultstrom said in a statement.
"A lot of us were fighting together in the trenches 10 years ago while the federal government was picking us off one by one," he said, referring to U.S. Drug Enforcement raids. "I'm looking forward to all of us standing shoulder to shoulder again to finish what we started, working with the city and neighborhood councils to build appropriate cannabis policy that is the model for what a well-functioning regulated cannabis marketplace should look like."
Coalition president Virgil Grant suggested that his group would continue to take the lead on dispensary regulation reform despite the UCBA's support for Proposition M. "We the Southern California Coalition represent the true stakeholders in the Los Angeles cannabis industry, and we intend to protect the integrity of the industry that has been represented here for the past 20 years," he said in a statement.
The Southern California Coalition points out that the UCBA initiative, which qualified for the March ballot, will still appear before voters. "While UCBA’s previous initiative will still appear before voters alongside Proposition M on the March 2017 ballot, the Southern California Coalition strongly encourages UCBA to include ballot initiative summary language relinquishing their support for the initiative and urging voters to support Proposition M," according to a statement from the coalition.