Los Angeles County and marijuana businesses have had a complicated relationship.
Though areas like Beverly Hills, Marina del Rey, and Willowbrook have banned marijuana storefronts since 2011, the businesses still maintain a strong presence in the county. As the retail marijuana revolution of 2018 inches closer, many of these municipalities and their local lawmakers are starting to come around on cannabis.
This week, the City of Angels will put a measure before voters that, if passed, would grant legal status to the existing 135 shops that currently inhabit a gray area within the law, and possibly even call for additional shops to be approved.
For now, the LA Board of Supervisors will extend the ban on marijuana businesses, which was previously scheduled to lapse in June. The ban’s scope has been broadened to include recreational marijuana producers and retailers. Proposed by Supervisor Kathryn Barger, the ban will allow more time for Los Angeles County to explore the possible benefits or pitfalls of granting the businesses legal status. The extended prohibition would immediately be lifted should the legalization proposal, drafted by Supervisors Janice Hahn and Sheila Kuehl, be approved by voters.
“We support moving from a ban to permitting and regulating the use,” Kuehl’s Spokeswoman Barbara Osborn explained via email to LA Weekly. “That’s part of what today’s motion should get us closer to.”
Hahn and Kuehl’s proposed bill would “allow, license, and appropriately regulate and enforce the cultivation, transportation, distribution, processing, manufacturing, testing, retail sale, and delivery of medical and commercial (recreational) cannabis in unincorporated county areas.” An Office of Marijuana Management would be created to regulate the county’s retail cannabis industry, according to the proposal, while an additional county tax on marijuana products would be implemented to cover regulatory expenditures.
According to Barger’s Planning and Public Works Deputy Edel Vizcarra, the elongated prohibition shouldn’t be viewed as a negative, but rather a necessary move to work toward the legalization bill brought forth by the Hahn and Kuehl. When asked if the two proposals were meant to work in harmony to advance a common goal, Vizcarra replied, “That was the intent.”
“This is a pioneering time for California and for the county,” said Supervisor Kuehl in a statement on the two legal measures. “We have an opportunity to take advantage of recent experiences in Oregon, Washington, and Colorado and adopt a regulatory system that will ensure the well-being of county residents as well as contribute to the growing expertise in dealing with the legalization of cannabis.”
Cover Image Courtesy of Allie Beckett
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