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ORIGINAL POST, Jan. 25, 12:25 p.m.: Yesterday, medical marijuana activists seeking to overturn Santa Ana's ban on medical marijuana collectives showed up at city hall with 16,000 signatures of city residents who want the pot clubs back in business. The group, which formed in August 2012 and calls itself the Committee to Support Medical Marijuana Ballot Initiative, hopes to let voters decide whether to set up a registration process that would allow no less than 22 cannabis clubs to operate, or roughly one per every 15,000 residents.
But first, the city plans to check 100 percent of the signatures to ensure that they're legit, according to activist Marla James, who added that city officials usually only check one to 10 percent of signatures. "This is a waste of money," James said. "We did use professional signature gatherers, so they spent a lot of time checking them before they handed them in."
Besides requiring the city to set up a registration process that would regulate marijuana collectives–prohibiting them from operating in certain zones, such as nearby schools, the initiative would also allow Santa Ana to collect a two percent tax on prospetive sales, which translates to twice the city's current business tax, money that would go straight into the city's general fund.
Assuming the city validates the signatures, the pot proposal wouldn't go before voters until 2014. Ironically, even as the activists showed up at city hall, officials in La Habra enacted a ban on pot clubs in that city.
UPDATE, Feb. 8, 9:41 p.m.: Looks like Santa Ana voters will have a chance to vote on whether to allow regulated dispensaries to operate in the city. According to the OC Register, the city spent $1734 to validate the signatures handed in by activists two weeks ago and determined they were legit. Santa Ana officials now have to either adopt an ordinance allowing the clubs to operate or put the matter up to a citywide vote by November 2014. Since it seems highly unlikely the city is going to reverse its policy on pot clubs, especially if the California Supreme Court upholds the right of municipalities to ban dispensaries, which is what everyone thinks it will do, looks like voters will have help sort out this mess.
UPDATE, March 21: In a five to zero vote at the council's meeting on Monday, March 19, councilmembers voted to approve a measure allowing cannabis clubs to operate to be placed on the November 2014 ballot. However, as the OC Register notes, the city is awaiting the outcome of a California Supreme Court case involving Riverside's citywide ban on pot clubs, which could determine whether cities are allowed to implement such bans rather than comply with the will of the voters. As previously noted on Navel Gazing, based on the court's response to oral arguments earlier this year, it's expected the justices will allow cities to ban dispensaries. Depending on the outcome of that case, Santa Ana city officials will reportedly begin studying their options, presumably prior to any vote.