In 2016 California voted to legalize recreational cannabis, signing into effect a big blank sheet of paper that we are now working to fill with rules and regulations. March 7th, 2017 is an important day, as it will solidify the framework for this quickly upcoming industry. The question is, which measure do we vote for and what happens if neither gets passed?
For starters, Measure M is receiving more support. Even in the Voter Information Pamphlet, the writers and official advocates for the Initiative state that they no longer endorse it and urge Angelenos to vote yes on Measure M and no on N. Now that you know the majority opinion, let me give you some details so you can form your own.
Measure M would give authority to amend and create regulations regarding the cannabis industry to City Counsel and the Mayor, but they would be required to hold public hearings before officially instating anything. Measure M also sets out a structure for penalties that will be faced by those operating without a permit, including nuisance abatement (for zoning infringements), monetary fines, and the shutting off of water and power to illegally operating facilities. There will be restrictions on advertising commercialized cannabis to those under 21, as well as safety regulations requiring cannabis facilities to remain a specific distance from schools, parks, residences, libraries, liquor stores, and other sensitive facilities. Importantly, this Measure will also keep areas from becoming oversaturated with recreational and medical dispensaries. The Measure also specifies new taxes for the industry. Recreational dispensaries will have a 10% tax imposed on gross receipt sales, medical collectives will have a tax drop from 6% to 5% on their sales, and transportation, cultivation, manufacturing, and testing companies will have a 1% to 2% tax imposed on them. All taxes from the cannabis industry, in both Measure M and N would go to the funding of police, fire, local libraries, parks, street services, and other city needs.
Initiative Measure N seems to lays out some similar groundwork. It touches on penalties for unauthorized cannabis activity along the same lines as Measure M, and mentions distance restrictions from sensitive facilities as well as other dispensaries. Unlike Measure M, it proposes creating the Los Angeles Department of Marijuana Regulation, which would control the dispensing of permits and the enforcement of regulations. It also does not specify taxes or regulations for transportation, manufacturing, cultivating, and testing companies. It proposes an 8% gross receipt sales tax on recreational marijuana sales and leaves medical marijuana tax at 6%. It also limits medical cannabis facilities to 135 throughout the city.
In my opinion, Measure N sounds like a last minute industry solution to regulate itself without the proper self-awareness. It isn’t a stable enough Measure to stop the monopolization of licenses for cannabis activity, and doesn’t provide the safety we are looking for in this exponentially growing industry. Should both Measures get passed, the one with the most votes will take the win. Should neither get passed, we will find ourselves on strangely grey grounds, as Prop D is no longer in line with Prop 64, but how can we have a cannabis industry if we cannot regulate it?