Pubdate: Thu, 02 Aug 2012
Source: Daily Pilot (Costa Mesa, CA)
Copyright: 2012 Daily Pilot
Author: Joseph Serna


Orange County Cannabis Alliance Wants Nonprofit Collectives to 
Operate Storefronts in Costa Mesa. Measure Could End Up on the November Ballot.

Medical marijuana advocates on Wednesday submitted nearly 6,800 
signatures to the Costa Mesa city clerk in hopes of placing an 
initiative on the November ballot that would legalize nonprofit 
collectives citywide.

"It's imperative to provide safe access for veterans and cancer 
patients," said dispensary owner Robert Martinez. "I'm super stoked 
to bring these signatures."

Martinez held a press conference outside of City Hall announcing that 
he and members of the Orange County Cannabis Alliance gathered nearly 
1,000 more valid signatures than the 5,812 required, or 10% of 
registered voters.

"This is people taking ownership of democracy," said Robert 
Jurgensen, a military veteran and vice president of the alliance's 
Political Action Committee.

City Attorney Tom Duarte's analysis of the initiative shows that it 
would lift the city's ban on marijuana dispensaries and authorize 
nonprofit collectives to set up storefronts.

Dispensaries would be prohibited from being within 1,000 feet of a 
school, but would not have to notify the city of their operation or 
seek its permission, according to the initiative.

They would not need a business license, special site plan or a 
variance and could only be inspected annually.

The group is operating in a small window to get their initiative on 
the November ballot. The deadline to get materials on the November 
ballot is Aug. 10.

The Orange County registrar of voters has 30 business days to verify 
the signatures, but could use a 3% random sample of the signatures to 
expedite the initiative process. The registrar then sends it back to the city.

Duarte's analysis along with the signatures would then have to be 
approved by the City Council. Their next meeting is Tuesday. The 
agenda for that meeting is set on Friday.

"A lot of people feel they've been fighting an oppressive local 
government," said Ryan Hollander, a founding member of the cannabis 
alliance and owner of the LiveWell dispensary in Costa Mesa.

Like the 40 or so other marijuana storefronts in Costa Mesa, 
Hollander's business was shut down after federal authorities raided 
stores or sent letters ordering their closure earlier this year.

"We feel we can be a voice for the little guy," he said.

The initiative doesn't offer any guidelines for the city to crack 
down on storefronts that would operate at a profit.

Its main goal is to protect nonprofit dispensaries that provide 
marijuana to patients who need it, such as injured military veterans 
and cancer patients, cannabis alliance members said.

"We're saying, protect us from getting shut down," Hollander said.

Over the last four years, Costa Mesa police have targeted 
dispensaries that they said were egregiously violating the state's 
Compassionate Use Act which permitted medicinal marijuana collectives 
by operating as essentially storefront dealers.

Duarte asked for the U.S. attorney office's help late last year, 
leading to raids and notices to shut down in January.

The cannabis alliance launched its initiative efforts soon after. By 
April, volunteers were canvassing the community, gathering signatures.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom