A petition calling for the legalization of medical marijuana dispensaries in Laguna Beach and the repeal of the city’s ban on them will be placed on either a special election ballot in July or on the general election ballot in November.
Besides considering when voters will vote on the measure, the City Council will also address whether to pursue its own counter ballot initiative to oppose legalizing dispensaries at its meeting on Tuesday.
The petition carried 3,912 signatures with 2,414 validated as registered Laguna Beach voters by the OC Registrar of Voters. That number exceeds 15 percent of the city’s 15,298 registered voters, a percentage required to validate an initiative and for it to be put to a vote.
The council denied medical marijuana dispensaries in Laguna Beach in 2009 and recently debated a ban on delivery services within city limits. In 1996, California voters passed Prop. 215, the Compassionate Use Act, allowing people with certain health conditions to use and grow marijuana as a medical treatment. Laguna Beach voters approved the measure by 71 percent while statewide approval was 56 percent.
Council members will decide whether to hold a special election in July to determine the fate of the initiative to overturn the local ban on dispensaries or to place the question on the general-election ballot in November. They can also support the initiative, which would eliminate the need for the initiative to be placed on the ballot, according to Phil Kohn, city attorney, unless the council decides voters should still weigh in. The council’s approval is equivalent to a vote, said Kohn, and cannot be repealed later without returning the issue to voters.
The council could also counter by adding a competing local measure on the November ballot asking voters to support its current ban on dispensaries and would need to qualify that measure by the end of next month.
The terms of the local initiative call for establishing two regulated dispensaries in town.
Collecting sales tax will likely be a driving force to legalize the regulated dispersal of medical marijuana, according to a statewide measure on the November ballot, known as the Adult Use of Marijuana. If approved, the measure would legalize the recreational use of pot and impose a 15 percent sales tax on purchases at medical marijuana dispensaries. The measure is backed by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. The measure would also give city governments the authority to regulate commercial non-medical marijuana businesses. Cities also have the authority to regulate, or ban, medical marijuana dispensaries while following state guidelines, Kohn said.
If voters approve, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act will allow anyone over 21 years old to possess and use pot for recreational purposes.
Signatures for the initiative were solicited around town at grocery stores, the Farmers’ Market and other highly visited places around town, said City Clerk Lisette Chel.