Voters in Santa Ana will decide in November whether they want to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries in the city. Now, thanks to a proposal before the city council, voters could face two ballot items with that goal – one proposed by the city, the other by MMJ advocates.
The latest proposed ballot initiative was introduced to council members by city staff June 17. It would limit the number of medical weed dispensaries in the city to eight and restrict them to one small part of town. It would also impose a 10 percent tax.
The measure was written by city officials in response to an earlier initiative submitted by marijuana industry proponents. That item, which has already been certified to appear on the November ballot, would allow more than 20 dispensaries throughout the city and would levy a 2.5 percent tax.
City Wants to Cut Off Industry Proposal
If the city council approves the new measure, it would appear on the ballot alongside the industry proposal. Mayor Miguel Pulido said it was important for Santa Ana officials to draft a competing initiative to protect the city.
“I’m trying to figure out, is there a better path that can at least limit the numbers and generate some money so that we can regulate it?” Pulido said.
The ultimate decision by voters could have a major impact on patients and the local marijuana industry. A 10 percent tax could be a significant burden for low-income patients, and limiting a small number of dispensaries to a small area could make it very difficult for patients to get their medicine.
Marla James, an MMJ patient, said she’s used weed for 15 years to treat pain left by an amputation. She said she’ll vote for the industry initiative.
“When I go to any Rite-Aid or whatever and pick up Vicodin, there is no tax,” James said. “But this is a medicine that my doctor recommends and I have to pay a tax on that.”
Santa Ana Could Reverse Course
Should either proposal win, it would mark a turnaround for Santa Ana. Like the rest of Orange County, the city currently bans all dispensaries, though officials estimate there are about 50 doing business anyway.
Orange County has been the center of a long effort by local and federal law enforcement to crack down on medical marijuana. That effort effectively shuttered most of the county’s pot shops.
Now it looks as though Santa Ana, at least, may turn the corner on that approach. If either of the two ballot initiatives gets a majority of the vote, it wins; if they both do, the initiative with the most votes wins.