Mail-in ballots are arriving at Los Angeles homes for those who don't want to trudge down to their local churches and elementary schools on May 21. The election includes the final run-off for mayor (a choice between which public unions will actually be running the office), a couple of other races, a stupid resolution objecting to the outcome of the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, and three competing initiatives to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries.
I was planning to put together a primer on the three initiatives – they are written in typical ballot initiative language and therefore are incomprehensible by average humans – but then it turned out Benjamin Gottlieb at KCET summarized them and pointed out the difference yesterday. He's got all three of them here.
To quickly explain, though:
Proposition D was put on the ballot by L.A. City Council. It caps the number of dispensaries at 135, essentially protectionism for the first shops to open prior to a moratorium enacted in 2007. It also raises taxes on dispensaries by 20 percent and requires background checks for all dispensary workers. Gottlieb notes that California courts have taken a dim view on some of the distinctions proposed and have already declared them unconstitutional. The ballot initiative could ultimately be struck down by the courts. (You better believe, though, that the Department of Justice will be more than happy to use the measure as an excuse to go after all the remaining dispensaries regardless of the court's ruling)
Ordinance E was pushed by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and was mostly the same as Measure D, but the measure neglected to extract more taxes from the pot dispensaries. This is Los Angeles, not Texas, so once Measure D was crafted, Measure E's supporters jumped ship and now support Measure D instead. For those wondering why the union is involved with this, they've worked to unionize several of those early dispensaries. The City-County Observer notes:
The 50-plus dispensaries with union ties would be allowed to stay in business, said Rigo Valdez, an organizing director with UFCW. One city councilman estimates there may be as many as 900 dispensaries now open in Los Angeles.
If the union-backed initiative is successful, it would put most of those dispensaries out of business and make the UFCW a dominant player in one of the nation's most important markets for legal marijuana sales.
Ordinance F would prevent the city from implementing a cap, preventing the closure of all the other dispensaries. But it also mandates background checks, raises taxes on marijuana sales, and mandates the testing of marijuana for pesticides and toxins.
Ordinance F comes off as the market-friendliest of choices, while the other two manage to combine community fearmongering with business and union protection rackets.
Elsewhere in Southern California, feds raided more marijuana dispensaries in the San Diego area yesterday, even as their City Council is working on drafting ordinances legalizing them and the mayor said the city would stop prosecuting them.
Below: Reason TV on the history of L.A.'s efforts to defy the will of the public on medical marijuana.