Los Angeles

Marijuana Advocates Celebrate New Era After Measure M's Passage

County will decide the fate of some dispensaries soon

Marijuana advocates rejoiced this week with the passage of Measure M, a Los Angeles city ordinance that takes shop pot shops out of legal limbo with the state and opens the door for greater industry regulation and growth.

"This is huge for the country," said Virgil Grant, the president of the LA-based marijuana advocacy group the Southern California Coalition, according to KPCC. "Everybody is sitting back, looking at what move the number one cannabis producing state and city is going to do. And we're gonna deliver."

But the budding battle is not over yet: a ruling from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors next week could decide the fate of marijuana stores across Southern California.

A showdown between marijuana trade groups and the City Council seemed imminent on the March 7 ballot. Mayor Eric Garcetti and council members had proposed Measure M which affirmed the powers of the city government to oversee, permit, and tax the Los Angeles marijuana market. Officials say this was intended to bring about 135 LA shops into compliance after the state launched the dispensary licensing process but the city had no system in place.

The United Cannabis Business Alliance, a collection of marijuana dispensaries, had organized an alternative called Measure N on the same ballot. It gave preference to the existing 135 stores in the licensing process. The group ultimately threw their support behind Measure M, though their proposal still appeared on the ballot and was rejected by voters.

With the industry and the government officials reaching an agreement — and now approved by almost 80 percent of voters — the regulations could be put in place as soon as this fall. Measure M established tax rates and criminal penalties for unauthorized cannabis activities, but the city still has to decide on the qualifications for cannabis business owners, locations of the storefronts, industry advertising, and more.

Pot advocates still have to sort through regulation on the county level. Marijuana stores in unincorporated LA County are at risk of a unilateral shutdown by the sheriff's office while the government figures out its licensing plan.

"Our biggest thing right now is showing them that it’s a bad policy to go closing the dispensaries," said Jonatan Cvetko, who co-founded a group of marijuana industry stakeholders in unincorporated LA County called Angeles Emeralds. "To do that several months prior to having the regulations rolling out doesn’t make any sense."

Cvetko, who works with marijuana providers, said that cultivators, dispensaries, and other members of the industry are working together to prove their potential to the county. "All the different operators have realized we do need each other and we need to stick together to make this work," he said.

Representatives of the District Attorney and the sheriff were scheduled to report to the LA County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, but Cvetko said that the presentation had been postponed until March 14.

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