Local Measures Meet Opposite Fates

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Voters sent two local measures on Tuesday’s ballot to opposite fates, rejecting a measure to repeal a 2009 ban on a medical marijuana dispensary and approving a 2 percent hike in bed taxes on hotel guests.

More than 71 percent of voters or 7,182 cast ballots that scorned Measure KK, which would have established two dispensaries in Laguna Beach that could also sell medicinal and recreational cannabis. KK didn’t carry a single precinct, according to the county registrar’s website.

“I haven’t taken a beating like that since I was in the school yard,” said Houston Durand, a local resident who through Costa Mesa companies he controls contributed half of the $60,000 that bankrolled the effort. “Thank you, Laguna.”

By comparison, every precinct except Three Arch Bay endorsed Prop. 64, the statewide measure to legalize marijuana, the registrar’s precinct map shows.

Resident Deborah Schlesinger, a former emergency room nurse, helped lead the KK opposition, whose backers included most elected officials and local law enforcement.

She thinks though voters might agree with KK’s objective to cater to medical marijuana users, they could not overcome their objections to the potential traffic impact of hosting what would be the only south-county dispensary.

While Durand emerged late in the campaign to defend KK at a public meeting and radio show, the proponents lacked visibility after the initiative qualified for the ballot in April and resorted to a late campaign mailing in the election’s final days that appeared a deliberate attempt to confuse voters.

“It flew in the face of truth,” said Schlesinger, suggesting that a lack of transparency by KK backers sowed suspicion among voters.

Durand said he didn’t authorize the late-mailer, which he described as “ill-advised.”

Despite the outcome of Prop. 64, which goes into effect immediately, he predicts Laguna Beach will not soon reconsider a dispensary of any kind. “Laguna used to be on the forefront of progressive issues,” he said.

He does take pride in igniting a discussion about the issue’s merits. “People have legitimate medical needs, but they won’t be met here,” Durand said

In the wake of the election, local resident and dispensary supporter Michael Beanan signaled to elected officials that he hasn’t lost interest in the topic. “As always, I am willing to help design a smart, sustainable program to compassionately serve our community needs,” he said in a letter to council members.

By contrast, Measure LL, to raise the city’s bed tax on hotel stays to 12 percent, faced little opposition and passed with 79 percent of the local vote or 7,749 votes with 21 percent or 2,059 votes against.

Council member Kelly Boyd said the issue was an easy sell to local voters. “It’s not coming out of my pocket and it will help residents,” he said. “Those staying should help pay for police and lifeguards,” he said.

While the “Vital Services” measure lacked a designated purpose, its intent is to bolster funding for public safety services such as police, fire and lifeguards, Boyd said. He said the council will soon consider how to designate the projected extra $2 million annually in proceeds.

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