Why did we even bother voting on medical marijuana 17 years ago?

marijuana.jpgTurns out that voters were sold a bill of goods in 1996 when they passed Proposition 215, a measure that many of us believed would legalize marijuana for medical purposes. As it turned out, however, Prop 215 was about decriminalization, not legalization. Smoking pot was one thing - buying it was quite another. The legislature failed to clarify things in 2003, which left regulation and enforcement in the hands of municipalities - and that created real chaos. So now the California Supreme Court has ruled that local jurisdictions are allowed to ban dispensaries, which effectively tosses out what many voters wanted out of Prop 215: Allowing folks with serious health problems to use marijuana. From the LAT opinion page:

In Los Angeles, the legal confusion contributed to city officials' struggle to agree on a coherent approach. As The Times' editorial board wrote last year, "The Los Angeles City Council first welcomed medical marijuana dispensaries, then tried to regulate them, then tried to ban them. The ban has now been suspended because opponents collected enough signatures to force a ballot referendum to overturn it." City residents will vote this month on three dueling initiatives to limit the number of dispensaries or just restrict their location. Voters who'd like to see a total ban can hope for all three to fail, but it's a bit late to be heading down that road. With hundreds of dispensaries in operation, it would take a prodigious enforcement effort to shutter all those outlets, particularly if they move their operations underground.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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