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Long Beach Council Shoots Down Alternative To Medical Marijuana Dispensary Ballot Initiative

| Jun 23, 2016 | News

By Harry Saltzgaver //

It appears the petition-drive initiative to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Long Beach will have a clear field on the November ballot, at least in terms of a local alternative.

Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price got enough support to put the question of a competing measure on Tuesday night’s agenda. But when she attempted to hold the item over until July 5 with a request for a study of potential impacts of the likely ballot measure, opposing council members attacked.

Early this month, a group led by Bob Kelton turned in petitions with about 35,000 signatures proposing an ordinance that would allow numerous medical marijuana dispensaries in Long Beach, with some operating restrictions and a 6% tax level. The city clerk is still verifying that enough of the signatures are from legally registered voters, but the council is operating on the assumption that it will qualify for the ballot.

In the agenda item, Price offered her proposal to start with a delivery-only model with potential to expand to storefronts as a starting point for a competing measure. Tuesday, she offered to postpone consideration until July 5 because Mayor Robert Garcia and Eighth District Councilman Al Austin were absent, and Seventh District Councilman Roberto Uranga was celebrating his 30th wedding anniversary.

She also asked the city manager and city attorney to start preparing an impact analysis if the ballot initiative were to pass.
Ninth District Councilman Rex Richardson said he couldn’t support Price’s alternative, but that a study might make sense. Then Uranga said that the council had turned down Price’s proposal once and didn’t need to address it again. He made a motion to receive and file Price’s request.

An hour of debate ensued. Price offered to drop her proposal and just ask for a report, but by that time Sixth District Councilman Dee Andrews, Vice Mayor Suja Lownethal and others said the time had passed for council action.

“We had our chance, and we got it right, but we were undone,” Lowenthal said. “We were undone, honestly, due to fear mongering. That politics of fear mongering is wrong.”

Public comment was unanimously against any further action from the council. Diana Lejins, a pro marijuana advocate, accused Price of conflict of interest, saying that her job as a deputy county prosecutor depended on keeping marijuana illegal.

Lowenthal, who was running the meeting because of Garcia’s absence, urged the council to vote against Price’s motion to seek a study. After that motion failed 6-2 (Fifth District Councilwoman Stacy Mungo voted with Price), Lowenthal urged a yes vote to receive and file before calling for that vote. It passed, 7-1.