The Los Angeles City Clerk's Office confirmed on Monday that opponents of a pending city ban on storefront medical marijuana dispensaries have submitted enough valid petition signatures to force a referendum on the ordinance.
The City Council now has the option of either repealing the ban, calling a special election within the next 110 to 140 days or putting the issue on the March 5 city election ballot.
The ban had been scheduled to take effect Sept. 6, but it was put on hold when a group of activists submitted about 50,000 petition signatures to the City Clerk's Office in hopes of forcing a vote on the issue. The clerk's office announced on Monday that 49,021 of the signatures were deemed to be valid, well above the required 27,425.
According to the clerk's office, the City Council is expected to consider its next move sometime before Oct. 7.
After the petition signatures were submitted, the city attorney's office posted a notice online indicating that it would not enforce the city's ban, but it also warned that "the business of medical marijuana continues to be an
unpermitted land use in the city."
The City Council voted in July to ban the dispensaries, citing conflicting court opinions about whether the city can legally regulate cannabis collectives. While banning storefront dispensaries, the city's action would allow licensed patients or caregivers to grow and transport their own medical marijuana.
Councilman Jose Huizar, who championed the ban, said when the petitions were submitted that putting the ban on hold means the city's "Sunset Clause" kicked in, "which outlaws storefront dispensaries and only allows, per state law, for a qualified patient or their caregiver to grow their own or collectives consisting of three or fewer qualified patients or their caregivers."
"State law is clear -- selling medical marijuana for profit is illegal," Huizar said. The referendum effort "does not change that and doesn't protect dispensary owners from prosecution if they engage in illegal activity."
Huizar noted that if medical marijuana advocates "cared about legitimately ill patients, they would be in Sacramento demanding changes to a lax state law that allows recreational users and profiteers to dominate the market, which has led to trouble up and down the state."