Guest column


Opponents to Measure KK Speak Out

By Deborah schlesinger
By Deborah schlesinger

We are responding to Billy Fried’s column on behalf of a group of concerned citizens called “Together Laguna Can Defeat Measure KK.”  Our group’s primary goal is to educate voters on the unstated implications of approving two medical marijuana dispensaries in Laguna Beach.

We are sympathetic to individuals who need and use medicinal marijuana. Our group’s position is not about medicinal or recreational pot, or politics, but rather the city’s ability to maintain control of the types of businesses we permit to locate here and to maintain our reputation as a family-friendly haven for beachgoers and art lovers alike.

In 2009, Laguna joined all of the surrounding cities in South Orange County, except Santa Ana, in banning medical marijuana dispensaries. These bans still exist today. If KK passes, Laguna would become the only community in South Orange County with dispensaries besides Santa Ana. We complain about traffic and parking during tourist season. Imagine a scenario where marijuana tourism exists from 8 a.m.-10 p.m., 365 days a year?  The traffic consultant cited by Mr. Fried likely did not consider Laguna being the only dispensary city in South County. His estimate of 250 additional visitors seems inadequate by an order of magnitude.

We appreciate Mr. Fried acknowledging the flawed language of the initiative, but disagree with his characterization that the action taken by the City Council did a disservice to our residents. This initiative, while “sponsored by two residents of Laguna,” was written by outsiders whose primary agenda is to reap huge profits at the expense of Laguna residents. The initiative as written allows the operators to circumvent the usual permitting processes with which other businesses must comply, removes typical city oversight and control, and prevents the city from selecting responsible operators.

Some of us attended the Monday night city council meeting Mr. Fried referenced and heard Chief Farinella’s presentation and testimony from proponents and opponents of the initiative. If proponents had wanted to speak, they could have testified just like the residents who spoke in opposition. That is the purpose of public hearings – equal access to all.

The council understood that the chief’s alternative initiative was quickly drafted and might not address all the issues associated with allowing dispensaries. Then, when the council listened to the overwhelming negative testimony from residents, the decision to fight a profoundly flawed KK rather than promote a hastily-assembled competing measure was an obvious choice.

The minimum number of required signatures, 15 % of the eligible electorate, was gathered to get KK on the ballot. However, this number does not represent the other 85% of Laguna voters who either declined to sign or were not approached. Since the signature gatherers were paid per signature, an inherent bias exists and it is likely that prospective signers were not informed about specific aspects of KK that might have resulted in their refusal to sign. If the statewide ballot measure, Prop. 64, passes, legalizing recreational use of marijuana (and recent polls suggest that it might), the first operators to get dispensary licenses in Laguna Beach could quickly begin selling recreational marijuana as well.

Another thing signature gatherers did not tell voters was that because pot is still illegal under Federal law, these dispensaries cannot accept credit cards or checks from purchasers and as a result are cash only businesses. This makes dispensaries and their patrons potential targets for crime.

It is also inaccurate to state that delivery services are not available to Laguna residents. The Medical Cannabis Regulation Safety Act, which became law Jan. 1, 2016, permits legal delivery by licensed delivery service to qualified patients.

Claims that sales taxes would benefit the city are significantly overblown. Any generation of sales tax dollars under Measure KK is paltry and wholly insufficient to defray the community costs associated with having dispensaries here. We know that if Prop. 64 passes, medical marijuana sales will be exempt from sales tax causing a dramatic net deficit for the city.

The language of the initiative does not prevent an operator from locating near parks, child-care centers or pre-schools, which are not defined as “schools,” under the law.

The column also stated that “thousands of patients” living in Laguna want a place to browse, discover and educate themselves, not unlike a bookstore or a wine shop. Bookstores and wine shops don’t sell merchandise that, whether you agree or not, remains illegal under federal law.

While we may take exception to Mr. Fried’s comments regarding proven medicinal efficacy, we reiterate this is not about medicinal or recreational use of pot. This is about local control and ensuring that Laguna Beach does not become the only destination in south Orange County for retail marijuana.

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Deborah Schlesinger, Tad Heitmann and Betsy Jenkins

The authors are local residents.

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  1. Actually the minimum number of signatures required to qualify this initiative was 10%

    The 15% gathered was the minimum necessary for a special election and a full 50% more than needed to qualify for the ballot.

    Please correct this.


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