Pubdate: Tue, 19 Jun 2012
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2012 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Note: Seldom prints LTEs from outside it's circulation area.
Author: Christopher Cadelago


Supporters Gathered Less Than a Third of Signatures Required to Put 
Initiative Before Voters in November

SAN DIEGO - A proposed ballot measure to regulate medical marijuana 
dispensaries and impose a tax on storefront operators in the city of 
San Diego will not go before voters in November, the proponents said Monday.

Citizens for Patient Rights, in connection with the Patient Care 
Association, were unsuccessful in securing the required 62,057 
signatures by Monday's deadline to qualify the initiative. The number 
of signatures collected was less than 20,000, organizers said.

Dispensary directors reported running up against a host of 
difficulties, including the massive crackdown by federal prosecutors 
and related actions by the city attorney, which severely depleted the 
organization's ranks and impeded the flow of money to signature 
gatherers and other campaign expenses.

"The problem you always encounter with these efforts is that they are 
extremely expensive," said Jessica McElfresh, an attorney who worked 
with the Patient Care Association to draft the proposal. Membership 
in the trade organization plummeted in recent months to five from 60 

"We had a lot of public support," said Cynara Velazquez, political 
consultant for the dispensary association. But the glut of statewide 
initiatives competing for the fall ballot raised the cost of paid 
signature gatherers, Velazquez said.

"We just couldn't compete monetarily," she said.

The same group last year collected more than 40,000 signatures to 
successfully repeal a city ordinance that medical marijuana 
dispensary directors and patients believed was too restrictive. They 
plan to pursue another initiative or to work with the new city 
council and mayor to pass regulations after the fall election.

Scott Chipman, chairman of San Diegans for Safe Neighborhoods, said 
it has become clear to a large number of residents that the medical 
marijuana industry has been hiding behind sick people and exploiting 
the compassion of voters to make money.

"For too long we have tolerated drug dealers selling from retail 
stores in San Diego," Chipman said. "We are pleased that there was 
insufficient support to even put this issue on the ballot in San 
Diego, and we urge the voters of other county municipalities to 
reject the permitting and regulating of these illegal and harmful businesses."

Over the next few months, collective directors said, they will focus 
on Encinitas, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Lemon Grove and La Mesa, where 
they have proposed similar initiatives. Proponents said they recently 
submitted enough signatures to qualify a measure in Del Mar and will 
follow though with the other cities in the coming weeks.

The new rules would limit storefront dispensaries to commercial and 
industrial areas and levy a 2.5 percent tax on retail transactions. 
They also would allow cities to recover their expenses, establish 
security measures and hours of operation and require licensing by 
existing city departments.

"This is a way of starting to have a regulated market that can serve 
as a model and then expand," Velazquez said.

A separate group of medical marijuana supporters - led by a local 
chapter of Americans for Safe Access - indicated last week that more 
than 15 percent of registered voters in Imperial Beach had signed a 
petition to force a public vote on whether to repeal the city's dispensary ban.



Number of signatures required to qualify the San Diego initiative on 
medical marijuana. Fewer than 20,000 signatures were received.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom