Los Angeles Voters Approve Cannabis Industry Regulations

Los Angeles is home to hundreds of dispensaries, but many could be out of business under new regulations approved by voters in Measure M.

Prop D is done: voters in Los Angeles, California have approved a broad suite of regulations for the city’s cannabis industry — setting the tone for the largest marijuana market in the world.


Nearly a decade after Prop D brought some protections to Los Angeles medical cannabis providers in compliance with state law, Measure M is the winning initiative that will craft the future of cannabis policy in the world’s largest market. This will be done on the back of the cannabis community, via four taxes applied to different sectors of the industry.

Prop D is going out of style quick — specifically January 1, 2018. LA needed an answer to the forthcoming regulatory structure of California under the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. Two attempts were mounted, but backers of a similar effort (Measure N) ultimately put their weight fully behind the city council-backed Measure M.

Essentially, Measure M will provide its sponsors, the city council, continued and new authority to amend and create cannabis regulations, which would have to be in full compliance with whatever the final big regulatory picture looks like in Sacramento.

This would happen after an extended public comment period across the community centers of the city. Existing operators who have been problem free will have “priority in the processing of their applications,” but no guarantees. It will also create criminal penalties around authorized operations catering to the black market or just trying to beat the taxman.

The local cannabis industry efforts backing Measure M were spearheaded by the Southern California Coalition, an LA-centric cannabis industry trade group.

Donnie Anderson, NAACP Chair and co-founder of SCC, said M offered benefits of inclusivity absent from the competing initiative.

“We wanted something more inclusive,” Anderson said. “Measure N would have locked out a lot of people from the industry. So Virgil and I started going to the city council meetings. We got their attention through my other nonprofit California Minority Alliance.”

Along with longtime LA industry veterans, Erik Hultstrom and Virgil Grant, Anderson founded SCC to collaboratively promote sensible marijuana policies, along with safeguards to regulate, control and tax the legal sale of cannabis in a way that protects and benefits Southern California’s communities, people of color, law enforcement, municipal services and workers.

The coalition Anderson put together represented a broader cross section of the industry than what other organizers brought forward, which he believes was a major strength.

“I told the city council it’s easier to work with the folks covering the most aspects of the industry,” Anderson said.

On November 7, the group’s efforts came to fruition: the city council approved the language for the ballot initiative written by the city attorney’s office with input from the SCC. After a brisk four months of campaigning, backers saw victory on March 7.

Los Angeles City Council President, Herb Wesson, touted the measure as a leap forward for safe access and market stability.

“Los Angeles is leading the country and world in responsible and inclusive approaches to legalization,” Wesson said. “The passing of Proposition M is a great victory for common sense, law enforcement and all Angelenos. We gave communities a voice in the process, and their voices will be continued to be heard. This measure is what responsible marijuana laws should look like, and we couldn’t be prouder of our city.”

Virgil Grant, president and co-founder of SCC, was equally satisfied with the results.

“Tonight, we celebrate a measure that protects communities, and doesn’t leave anyone behind,” Grant said. “Our plan is to take Proposition M’s framework to Los Angeles County next, to Sacramento and beyond, so that this comprehensive approach can serve as a model for cities, states and the entire country.”

Some would question the “comprehensiveness” at this point, but Measure M surely represents a step in the right direction, and Grant said, a local victory for LA.

“This measure is evidence that when we listen and work together, we can solve issues, find common ground, and benefit our communities and citizens in the process,” he said. “We can’t thank our partners, members, supporters and the people of LA enough for believing in our mission, and backing this precedent-setting initiative.”

In an election night statement, supporters also claimed the LA market is easily overshadowing Colorado’s medical and adult-use market, and that Proposition M will create thousands of more well-paying jobs for Los Angeles workers. Jobs that, on average, pay more than $20 per hour — nearly double California’s minimum wage and 65 percent higher than the national average.

Adam Spiker, executive director of SCC echoed that optimism.

“We are thrilled Angelenos voted yes on Proposition M,” Spiker said. “This precedent-setting framework will provide Los Angeles with the ability to address issues — not in piecemeal — but in a comprehensive way.  The measure will also provide the city with more jobs, along with millions in tax revenue towards city services each year. We will continue to work to implement the comprehensive and inclusive framework that Proposition M lays out as well as bring more responsible approaches to legalization to other parts of the state and country.”

TELL US, do you think the regulations approved by Measure M will help LA?

Jimi Devine has been involved in cannabis reform since 2005 and has worked in the Berkeley cannabis industry since 2009 when he moved to California from Lynn, Massachusetts. Currently serving as Staff Writer here at Cannabis Now, you can also find his writings on cannabis products and policy in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, The Hill, The Chronicle of High Education, GreenState.com, Marijuana.com, 7x7 Magazine, and in Ed Rosenthal's most recent book This Bud's for You. Jimi has a BA in Journalism and Media Studies from Franklin Pierce University.

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