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Measure A: Regulation of medical marijuana
On June 2, 2015, Measure A, which was on the ballot to allow and regulate medical marijuana dispensaries in Riverside was defeated. If it passed, Measure A would have lifted Riverside’s ban on medical marijuana dispensaries.
According to the Press Enterprise (PE), the initiative would have allowed the availability of one dispensary per 30,000 residents in commercial and industrial zones of the city. Given the city’s population in 2015, this would have allowed the establishment of 10 dispensaries in total.
The initiative to regulate medical marijuana was met with both support and opposition. Supporters maintained that rejecting such a regulation meant declining necessary treatment to those in need. They felt that Measure A included enough safety measures to prevent the misuse of marijuana, especially by minors. However, the opponents strongly believed that such a regulation focused largely on increasing the profits of owners of such dispensaries rather than making patient access and public safety a priority.
The election results from the Riverside County Elections Office depicted a 40.04 percent response in the affirmative compared to 59.96 percent of the voters who rejected the initiative.
As per the City of Upland Medical Marijuana Dispensary Initiative (2015), the ballot summary included the establishment of a process that would allow the recognition of certain “medical marijuana providers association” by the City. These “associations” would be subjected to an application process, zoning restrictions and obtaining a business tax certificate. It further eliminated the restriction on the delivery of marijuana and marijuana-based products from mobile medical dispensaries.
It also refuted the City zoning requirements so that it would not conflict with the federal law. These associations aimed for the provision of education, referral or networking services alongside the facilitation of lawful production, acquisition and provision of medical marijuana to qualifying patients. This would be in accordance with the Compassionate Use Act (CUA) and the Medical Marijuana Program (MMP).
The only associations to procure the “preferred status”, that is, being prioritized for City recognition, would be the ones who operated in the City prior to the enactment of the legislation and operated in compliance with the CUA, MMP and the California Attorney General guidelines.
The top reasons for favoring Measure A, according to the Riverside County Elections Office, were listed to be the failure of City of Riverside’s prohibition laws against medical marijuana as illicit use of marijuana increased over the years. The California Police Chiefs Association and the Riverside Sheriffs’ Association realized the need for statewide regulation of medical marijuana distribution. Furthermore, Measure A ensures the safety of the local community and minors in particular.
Some safeguards that Measure A proposed to implement were:
1.The restriction of operation to the Business & Zone, General Industrial Zone and Commercial General Zone only.
2.Prohibition of any licensed association from operating within 1,000 feet of another licensed association, in order to prevent a concentration in any particular area.
3.Prevention of any licensed association from operating within 1,000 feet of a public or private school.
The supporters further argued that repeating the same pattern of prohibition had garnered no more benefits as it did so in the past. The initiative further elaborated by highlighting the example of the City of Palm Springs that, prior to its legalization of medical marijuana, routinely had over a dozen illegal dispensaries operating. However, choosing to adopt a sensible local regulation, the number dropped to just three. Furthermore, Palm Springs brought in $1,034,346 from its marijuana tax in 2014.
On the other hand, opponents included the Riverside mayor and certain council members who signed the official argument in opposition to Measure A. They believed that Measure A was actually increasing the likelihood of marijuana reaching children as it legalizes sales to individuals below 21 and 1,000 feet distance between a dispensary and school was not significant. In addition to the initiative violating federal laws, the opponents further argued that it ignored the requirement of a criminal background check for dispensary operators and did not allow safety lighting or immediate accessibility by the Riverside Police Department to security camera systems. These were all added dangers to the community that the dispensaries would not be taxed for.
Even though medicinal marijuana is legal in California, the courts ruled that cities and counties have the right to ban marijuana cultivation and medicinal marijuana dispensaries. Riverside County and most of its cities already have done so, with only Palm Springs, Cathedral City and Desert Hot Springs permitting dispensaries.
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