LA voters back measure to cap number of pot shops
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Los Angeles voters have approved a proposition limiting the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.
With all precincts reporting Wednesday, Proposition D had 63 percent of the votes. Two competing measures to regulate medical pot sales were defeated.
Proposition D caps the number of pot clinics in the city at 135, far below the roughly 1,000 that operated several years ago. It also increases taxes on the dispensaries and sets rules about their hours and distances from schools and parks.
The measure was backed by both mayoral candidates.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
Los Angeles voters gave strong backing to a proposal that would limit the number of medical marijuana shops in the city.
Proposition D received about 64 percent of the votes Tuesday, far more than the simple majority needed to become law. With many ballots still being counted Wednesday, backers were cautiously optimistic.
"We're very encouraged, the numbers are looking good," said Kerry Townsend Jacob, spokeswoman for the Prop D effort. "I just think that the message worked. This is a sensible compromise."
Medical marijuana has been legal in California since voters approved it in 1996. However, regulation of so-called pot shops has been haphazard in many communities, none more so than LA. The number of dispensaries in the city surged since 2007, reaching an estimated 1,000 and prompting a series of unsuccessful efforts by city lawmakers to bring order to the industry.
Those failures led to the three propositions that qualified for Tuesday's ballot.
Proposition D, backed by both mayoral candidates, would cap the number of pot shops at 135 - the number that were open prior to 2007. It also would increase taxes on the operations, establish distances for their proximity to schools and parks, limit their hours and prohibit smoking on the premises.
Its major rival, Proposition F, wouldn't limit the number of outlets but would impose stringent controls such as audits and background checks on employees. It received about 43 percent of votes. Proposition E was in third place, as expected because its backers threw their support to Proposition D.
California law is at odds with federal statutes, which outlaw marijuana possession and sales, even for medical purposes. Raids on dispensaries have continued under the Obama administration, disappointing medical marijuana supporters.
In LA, the outcry for oversight has intensified as the number of dispensaries grew. Residents complained that some shops were nothing more than fronts for drug dealers.
Three years ago, an ordinance was passed that slashed the number of shops from roughly 1,000 to 70. But the city was bombarded with dozens of lawsuits by dispensaries and the law expired last year, leading to another surge of pot shops.
Last summer, the city approved a ban but two months later repealed it after enough signatures were gathered to get the measures on the ballot.
Earlier this month, communities were given better guidance on the issue when the state Supreme Court ruled cities and counties can ban dispensaries.