Election Day is coming, and maybe you’re not sure how to vote on the various marijuana measures before you. May I be of service?

State Measure 64
In 1996, California lived up to its progressive reputation by becoming the first state to legalize marijuana for medicinal use. But since then voters first in Oregon and Colorado, then in Washington and Alaska have taken over as trailblazers in the fight to disperse the haze of reefer madness, legalizing marijuana for recreational use while we lag behind. Time to catch up. YES on 64. It’s ridiculous we’re not already over the hump.

Long Beach Measures MA and MM
“The medical-marijuana movement is here, and it’s something we have to deal with and accept,” said Councilmember (now Mayor) Robert Garcia in 2009. Now it’s seven years later, and medpot dispensaries remain banned citywide despite Long Beach residents voting in favor of legalizing marijuana for even recreational use in 2012. The Long Beach City Council, which has done everything it can to obstruct access to cannabis within city limits since repealing the ordinance that allowed a couple dozen to set up shop in 2011, has spent $433,000 of Long Beach taxpayer money to put MA on the ballot to compete with MM, a measure placed on the ballot by medpot proponents. MM would remove the ban and allow 26 to 34 dispensaries to set up shop. MA does not remove the ban—it just grabs extra money should MM pass. How much more? For starters, while MM taxes medpot at 6%, MA allows for up to 8%. So if you think it’s wrong to tax medpot while prescription meds are tax-free, then that’s up to 33% more wrong. (FYI, Los Angeles manages to get by with 6%.)

Things may be less clear when it comes to recpot. The pro-MA argument—penned by Garcia, LBPD Chief Robert Luna, and LBFD Chief Mike Duree—claims that “the tax rate on recreational marijuana would be zero without Measure MA”; but in comparing MA and MM in his analysis for the sample ballot, City Attorney Charles Parkin says only that “[c]urrently Long Beach has a tax [viz., up to 10% on gross receipts] on medical and non-medical (i.e., recreational) marijuana,” and that MM “would reduce the City’s maximum gross receipts tax rate from 10% to 6%, and limit collection of this tax to retail dispensaries.” And although there is some inconsistent language in MM and in Long Beach Municipal Code Section 3.80.261 (which is what MM would amend), that chapter of the muni code concerns “MARIJUANA BUSINESSES,” which are defined as “any activity that involves, but is not limited to transporting, dispensing, delivering, selling at retail or wholesale, manufacturing, compounding, converting, processing, preparing, storing, packaging or testing, any part of the plant cannabis sativa L, or any of its derivatives.” “Marijuana Dispensary” is defined with the same all-encompassing language, and under under MM (whose language explicitly covers both not-for-profit and for-profit businesses), “Every Marijuana Dispensary shall pay business tax at a rate of six percent (6%) of Gross Receipts.” Mark my words: if MM passes but MA is defeated, the City will not throw up their hands and say, “Well, we can’t tax recpot”; rather, they’ll cite the language above and tax it at 6%.

I don’t claim to know what’s an appropriate tax rate for recpot. What I do know is that there’s no special Long Beach tax for alcohol, cigarettes, high-fructose corn syrup, etc., so there’s at least some question why cannabis ought to be more of a cash cow. That is not to say a city tax is inherently unreasonable, but Long Beach might do well to listen to the L.A. Times Editorial Board: “[H]ere’s a word of caution to county, state and local leaders: Legal marijuana should not be seen as the solution to your revenue problems.”

Plus, consider the source and supporters of MA. For starters, they didn’t care enough about patient access to medpot to write into MA a lifting of the ban. As councilmember, Garcia voted for that ban (so much for “deal with and accept”), and as mayor he has proven unwilling or unable to lead Long Beach out of the weeds on this issue. For his part, Luna has continued to expend police resources on fool’s errands like trying to bust delivery services and faking medpot doctors’ notes. In 2014–’15 the LBPD served 150 search warrants on dispensaries and arrested 400 staff members, then handed out commendations for those officers’ “relentless pursuit of narcotics violators.” Together they assert that if dispensaries are re-introduced, “Long Beach will desperately need additional public safety and public health resources to keep the community safe.” These are simply scare tactics. The presence of dispensaries in 2011 did not cause a spike a crime, and there is no data supporting the notion that public health was compromised by the presence of dispensaries, no spike in pot-related ER visits or some such.

Does it seem likely to you that the people who brought you the ban and are hyperbolizing about the dangers of legalized marijuana coming back to town are also championing sensible, pot-friendly policies? The term you’re searching for is credibility gap. NO on MA.

Rae Gabelich, by far the strongest advocate for medpot during her tenure on Long Beach City Council, is a signatory on the anti-MA argument, while the pro-MM argument is co-signed by her former council colleague Tonia Reyes Uranga (also a strong medpot supporter during her tenure) and new 2nd District Councilmember Jeannine Pearce. These are people who prize personal freedom and patient access to medicine, rather than simply trying to make an “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” money-grab. Without MM, the ban on dispensaries remains in place—even if Proposition 64 passes. Don’t let Long Beach get left behind. YES on MM.

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