Costa Mesa voters will see three medical pot shop measures

COSTA MESA – Voters will decide in November whether medical marijuana dispensaries should be allowed in the city.

The City Council voted 4-0 Tuesday night to place two measures proposed by two advocates that would allow several dispensaries in the city on the ballot. One initiative would allow up to eight shops and the other four.

The ballot measures prompted the city last month to propose one of its own to regulate the shops. That measure has not been brought to the council for approval, but would allow the shops in industrial zones north of the I-405 and west of Harbor Boulevard, a tax component and allows testing and manufacturing labs to open immediately, said Councilman Jim Righeimer.

“The industry needs that,” Righeimer said. “Cities have dispensary rules, but they don’t have any rules for the testing and engineering people and the people that are making the products.”

On Tuesday, the council also agreed the city should write an argument against the other two measures on the ballot.

“These initiatives are both backed by law firms who already know who the people are who are going to get the licenses,” said Righeimer, who will write the city’s argument.

“They’ll (proponents) do an argument that says this is for medical marijuana … and all these things,” he said. “We’ll say nice try. This is about making millions of dollars for individuals who put the initiative on the ballot.”

Fullerton-based lawyer Randall Longwith, who represents the advocates behind two successful petitions for the dispensaries, supports the council passing their own initiative and said medical marijuana patients should have a place where they can get their medicine.

“There is a need for safe access to medicine in their community,” Longwith said, disputing the idea the measures are a money-grab. “I hope that they (council) draft something that allows dignified safe access in the city.”

The city measure does not specify the number of dispensaries that would be allowed. The council will approve the language of the city’s initiative once they review a draft, which could happen in June or July, said City Clerk Brenda Green.

Medical marijuana shops have been banned in the city since 2005, but a number of them had operated in the city anyway. Many were shut down in 2012 by federal agents.

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