Congressman Alan Lowenthal and other elected officials are asking voters to support a ballot measure to legalize medical marijuana in Long Beach.
Lowenthal joined city councilmembers Dee Andrews, Jeannine Pearce and Roberto Uranga at Long Beach City Hall on Thursday to ask residents to vote yes on Measure MM, a citizen initiative that seeks to repeal a city ban on medical marijuana businesses and create safeguards for their existence.
The measure would set tough restrictions on the number of dispensaries and their locations, which would be prohibited near schools, parks and beaches, and in residential neighborhoods, proponents said.
Andrews, who represents the 6th District, said the measure is long overdue for Long Beach.
It provides safe, legal and easy access to medical marijuana for those who need it, and thats really whats important, he said.
Uranga said the marijuana business needs to be taken out of back streets and alleyways and put into store fronts.
Two decades ago, California became the first state to sanction medical marijuana under Proposition 215. The law gave cities power to regulate medical marijuana, or ban it all together, and many cities did just that, leading to a patchwork of widely varying local ordinances.
The city has considered the idea of allowing dispensaries since they were generally banned in 2012.
But some legal doors opened last year when the state legislature passed the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, a law that crafted a framework for cities to regulate the sale of medical cannabis.
In light of the fairly new legislation, Lowenthal said he believes the time is right to repeal the local ban on medical marijuana.
California regulators have moved to put sensible boundaries around what was once the Wild West of the cannabis marketplace, he said.
While other city officials have yet to take a stance for or against the measure, many said they support a city tax measure – Measure MA – on Thursday, hours after the endorsements for Measure MM were announced.
Measure MA was introduced after Measure MM qualified for the ballot in an effort to recover costs incurred by the city should voters approve the local measure and a statewide measure, Proposition 64, which seeks to allow recreational consumption of marijuana for those 21 and older.
Revenue generated through MA – estimated at up to $13 million annually – would fund police, fire and other public safety and public health services. The measure would create a tax on recreational marijuana and increase the tax on medical marijuana from what was originally proposed in Measure MM.
The entire City Council, along with Lowenthal and Congresswoman Janice Hahn, have signed on to support the tax measure.
Hahn called MA a balanced and responsible approach to securing resources to tackle local public health and homelessness challenges.
Mayor Robert Garcia sent an letter to constituents on Monday urging a yes vote on MA. In it, he said Long Beach would desperately need more resources if voters approve the state and local marijuana measures in November.
Passing Measure MA is critical to ensure we have the necessary public safety and public health resources if voters choose to legalize marijuana, he said in a statement released Thursday.
Proponents of Measure MM, however, fear that heightened taxes on medical marijuana could stifle legitimate businesses and fuel the black market, creating a larger burden for law enforcement in the long run.
News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Long Beach, State Leaders Endorse Local Marijuana Measures
Author: Courtney Tompkins
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Photo Credit: Brittany Murray