Los Angeles just upped their weed game in a big way. On Tuesday, Angelinos voted in a consolidated municipal and special election that featured a ballot of nearly 15 items—including Measure M, the Los Angeles Cannabis Enforcement, Taxation and Regulation Act.
Measure M passed with 77 percent of the votes, sparking off a massive victory party at the Bonaventure Brewery in Downtown LA. But the approval of LA’s new regulatory framework is much bigger than simply allowing legal dispensaries to operate within the city. It’s a comprehensive ordinance that could potentially become a model for surrounding counties looking to integrate the medical-recreational cannabis industries into their cities on a large scale. “There’s no doubt that Measure M will set a new bar for other municipalities, at least within the region, to compete with,” says Yorba Linda resident Adam Spiker, Executive Director of the Southern California Coalition, a large and inclusive cannabis industry trade organization that supported the measure.
Taxation and broad licensing are what Spiker’s referring to, and what he believes is going to be a game changer for cannabis. According to the ordinance, every person with a recreational license engaged in the business of selling cannabis and its various forms are required to pay a business tax of $100 for every $1,000 sold. For medical it’ll be $50 for every $1,000 sold. If you have a transportation, testing or researching license a business tax of $10 will be required for every $1,000 earned. For a manufacturing and cultivation license, you’ll have to pay a $20 business tax for every $1,000 earned.
“The licensing and taxation of Measure M is going to allow LA to legitimize cannabis on a new level and set a more sustainable bar for taxation in LA and surrounding municipalities,” Spiker says. “It’s going to be an example.”
LA’s new regulatory framework replaces the ever-flawed Proposition D that only addressed the retail side of the industry. Essentially, Prop. D only provided a "limited immunity" to 135 dispensaries as long as they met certain requirements, while outlawing any other storefronts outside of the selected bunch. The “look-the-other-way” kind of system was no match for LA’s vastness, quickly revealing the ordinance’s holes and lack of comprehensiveness. According to Spiker, law enforcement has no way of truly regulating the illegal businesses under Prop. D. Right now there’s an estimated 1,700 illegal dispensaries—not including delivery services—operating in the city. (HA! The 14 rogue dispensaries that Santa Ana politicians and cops are losing sleep over seems like a night at the symphony in comparison. How’s that for a perspective shift?)
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Although Measure M will grant priority to the 135 dispensaries that had immunity through Prop. D, pretty much anyone is allowed to apply for one of the new city-issued licenses. According to Spiker, people will likely be able to apply by early this fall. “We’re still trying to figure out that date,” he says. “In the ordinance it says September 30th, but we’re trying to expedite that because of state licenses. We want everyone to be compliant by then.”
But perhaps the best aspect of the measure is that it gives the citizens of LA a voice in creating the details of the ordinance. As of now, the measure doesn’t address the specifics on licensure, land use and zoning, which are going to be the criteria going forward. That info is being worked out by the city in public hearings held through out LA that residents are encouraged to participate in. If you wish to participate, contact your Los Angeles neighborhood council and find out where these meetings are held.
“Measure M is designed so the community’s voice is heard,” says Spiker. “We’ll also have rules and committee meetings focused around education on the new framework. Measure M isn’t a Band-Aid like Prop. D—it’s going to create a safe, real and regulated industry.”