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Southern California Activists Eye Midterm Elections To Overturn Local Bans

Closed signs cover a dispensary door in south California where local bans have forced them to close their doors.
Kandice Hawes with Debbie Tharp


Southern California Activists Eye Midterm Elections To Overturn Local Bans

Local activists living in localities that have banned medical marijuana collectives (nearly all cities in Orange and Riverside Counties) have taken safe access into their own hands.

Efforts by OC NORML and other groups to work with local officials have failed to produce reasonable regulations, so local activists have drafted statutory voter initiatives to re-open safe access to medical marijuana through direct democracy, thus circumventing these harmful bans.

In Santa Ana (Orange County), action was spurred by an onslaught of code enforcement harassment and tickets aimed at the county’s collectives. A group of activists and collective owners organized the Committee to Support Medical Marijuana Ballot Initiative PAC and drafted the Medical Cannabis Restriction and Limitation Initiative with the help of Oakland-based Attorney James Anthony.

This bill repeals the current ban on medical marijuana collectives and sets up a registration process with the city. The initiative would allow a minimum of 21 collectives to be registered and would increase with the population. In addition, the initiative will help Santa Ana raise desperately needed funds by requiring an 3 percent tax on all transactions. This initiative has qualified and will be on the ballot this November.

A separate medical marijuana initiative, which would have allowed half as many collectives and proposed a higher tax, failed to submit the required number of valid signatures and will not appear on the ballot. The City of Santa Ana, however, will most likely craft its own initiative to be placed on the November ballot.

In Riverside, legal action has failed to provide relief from punitive bans enacted against the medical marijuana collectives and patients who have been denied safe access by a politically motivated California Supreme Court.

Lanny Swerdlow the Director of the Marijuana Anti Prohibition Project is working alongside the Riverside Safe Access PAC and with Attorney Jason Thompson, who drafted the Riverside Medical Marijuana Restriction and Limitation Act. This initiative repeals the city’s ban and allows one collective for every 30,000 residents, which would currently work out to 10 locations. More than 12,000 valid signatures are required by May in order for this campaign to qualify for the ballot.

Santa Ana and Riverside are both the seat of their respective counties. The successful passage of medical marijuana initiatives in these cities would be a victory for patients all over California. Until a statewide initiative passes to ensure safe access for every city in California, local activists who bring initiatives directly to the voters remain the best viable option to ensure safe access.

Do you support the work of these Southern California activists? Tell us in the comments below.

Kandice Hawes founded Orange County NORML in 2003 after losing college financial aid for a simple possession charge. In the ten years since then, OC NORML has become one of the most accomplished chapters, earning it the “NORML Chapter of the Year Award” in 2012. Hawes was named the High Times Freedom Fighter of the Year in 2012. She is now a freelance contributor to Cannabis Now Magazine as well as a full-time student at California State University at Fullerton studying Political Science and Public Administration.



  1. Michele

    April 13, 2014 at 11:27 am

    Some cities have taken access into their own hands, but Riverside and Orange County in general have not taken “safe access” into their own hands. In fact, they have PREVENTED safe access, and PROMOTE black market access instead. With the unprecedented number of medical cannabis patients in our cities, local governments have an obligation to create a way for patients to obtain safe, clean, tested, cannabis. There is no excuse at this point for not doing so. Any city can find sample ordinances drafted by cannabis friendly cities, such as Palm Springs and Santa Barbara, and the implementation of these ordinances are not that difficult.

  2. Doree Rizzo

    April 11, 2014 at 6:26 am

    Thank you for writing about our efforts in Riverside. We have worked very hard to get to the signature gathering process and have just a few more signatures required to qualify for the ballot. Then the campaigning begins which costs a lot of money . Fundraising is essential to get the voters educated and counteract the negative campaign the city of Riverside will undoubtly throw at us. Thank you and please keep informing your readers about local efforts to overturn these outright bans on access to MMJ for patients !

  3. Catrina Coleman

    April 11, 2014 at 6:19 am

    Fighting stupid laws with just laws is sometimes how we have to do it. 3% tax is more than fair, especially since having access to medical marijuana IS and HAS BEEN California State law. Good job Kandice Hawes!

  4. Caren

    April 10, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    The same thing is happening in Fresno city & county! Not only have they already closed all dispensaries, they just passed an ordinance to totally ban ALL cultivation outright (outdoor and indoor), medical or not. If caught growing, they fine patients $1000 per plant. They’re making a nice profit. Being challenged in courts.

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