California's first-in-the-nation plastic bag ban has been stopped in its tracks.

A plastics industry referendum to overturn the legislature's passage of the law, which was signed last year by Gov. Jerry Brown, has qualified for the ballot, the California Secretary of State's office stated yesterday. That means the ban can't go into effect until you've had a chance to vote on overturning it, which will happen in November 2016.

The prohibition on single-use plastic bags at markets and drug stores had been scheduled to take effect July 1.

Says the Secretary of State's office:

The challenged law must … be approved by a majority of voters at the next statewide election to go into effect. The law prohibits grocery and certain other retail stores from providing single-use bags but permits sale of recycled paper bags and reusable bags. 

Santa Monica–based environmental group Heal the Bay, which spearheaded successful bag bans in the city and county of L.A., Malibu and Santa Monica, wasn't happy.

The industry Heal the Bay calls Big Plastic had to gather several hundred thousand signatures from registered voters in order to qualify its referendum for the ballot. The environmental group said this in a statement:

The plastic bag industry, primarily driven by out-of-state support, has sunk over $3.2 million into its campaign to repeal this landmark pollution prevention law. 

The big concern with disposable plastic bags is that they end up in landfills, in the ocean and in other waterways, where they can choke and suffocate wildlife.

Heal the Bay notes that the bags are still outlawed at L.A. markets. And, it says, the statewide political battle shouldn't prevent local towns from enacting their own rules:

The 138 local plastic bag bans that were enacted prior to passage of the state law will remain in place, in areas like the city and county of Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Long Beach. Referendum qualification will freeze implementation of SB 270, as originally scheduled, so retailers in communities without plastic bag bans may continue to distribute free plastic bags.

But, nothing is keeping individual municipalities from acting against the plastic sack scourge.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow L.A. Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.

LA Weekly