See the bottom of the post for an update on this story.
Original Post, March 10, 9:28 AM: A group of "concerned citizens and business owners" is filing signatures today with the Santa Ana City Clerk, hoping to turn around the recent "Potpocalypse" in that city.
In case you weren't aware, an explosion of medical marijuana dispensaries occurred in Santa Ana after the first election of President Barack Obama. However, starting in 2011, both the feds and local officials in Orange County began cracking down on pot shops, forcing all but a handful of storefronts in Santa Ana, Garden Grove and Anaheim to shut down. As recently as last November, the city sent letters to all dispensaries warning them to shut down or face prosecution.
The latest attempt by medical marijuana advocates to turn this situation around aims to go before voters this November and calls itself "The Initiative to Authorizing Regulated Operation of Medical Marijuana Facilities," or "ARO" for short.
"The initiative is a more city friendly and conservative alternative to the initiative that is currently qualified for the November general election," says the group's lawyer, Randall Longwith. That intiative, the Medical Marijuana Control Act," would overturn the city's ban on pot dispensaries and set up a registration process for collectives.
Longwith says the ARO would limit the number of dispensaries to 11, require a 600 foot distance from schools (and 500 foot distance from parks) as well as establish a 5 percent business tax on the storefronts that would go directly to Santa Ana's general fund.
It restricts concentration of facilities by not allowing more than one collective in any single retail property," says Longwith. " It restricts all minors from the premises, requires all medicine to be in "child proof" containers, and requires that all employees and owners provide Live Scans and ensuring they have no felony convictions within the last 7 years."
Finally, the proposal would set "odor restrictions" on the dispensaries as well as prohibit signs from depicting marijuana or pot smoking. But fear not, apparently those ubiquitous green crosses will remain legal.
Update, April 16, 9:50 am: Backers of the initiative failed to submit enough valid signatures to qualify for an election. "We believe the county has made a mistake in their validation of our signatures," Longwith told the Weekly. "The County Registrar of Voters based its validation a "random check" of only 500 of the over 10,000 signatures filed by us.
According to Longwith, the company that gathered the signatures, Democracy Resources, "guaranteed us that they performed their own internal validation of every single signature that was turned in prior to filing the signatures with the city clerk. We are confident, based on their representations, that the signatures will be validated successfully. We have already submitted a request to the Orange County Registrar of Voters to perform a "Full Check" of all 10,000 signatures filed with them."
But activist Deborah Tharp says that patients and dispensaries should not despair, given that the original initiative remains on the ballot. "In my opinion, the way ours was written did not stop them from having access. Putting a second initiative on the ballot undermines what the original qualifiers fought so hard for, our effort as a whole.