Twenty-two boxes containing about 35,000 petition signatures of registered Long Beach voters who are in favor of repealing the city’s ban on medical marijuana dispensaries were delivered to the city clerk’s office Wednesday. The submission activates an in-depth verification process that could land the measure on the November ballot, allowing Long Beach voters to ultimately decide whether or not a ban is warranted.
“I believe that it will pass easily in the November election,” said Long Beach resident and cancer survivor Bob Kelton, who submitted the petitions today.
Kelton, who is a software systems consultant, said his primary goal for proposing the initiative was to make sure medicinal cannabis is available to real patients.
During his battle with cancer, Kelton went through surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Doctors prescribed him more than 15 different types of medications with severe side-effects before recommending cannabis, he said.
“Cannabis is far more effective, with far fewer side-effects than many of the other medications,” said Kelton.
The initiative proposes 1,000-foot buffer zones from all schools, 600-foot buffers from parks, beaches and libraries, 1,000-foot buffers from other collectives and a per-capita limit on dispensaries—one for every 18,000 residents, or roughly 25 citywide—as part of a workable ordinance for both business operators, the city and its residents.
If passed, the ordinance would allow dispensaries to be open from 9:00AM to 8:00PM and allow residential deliveries up until 9:00PM. The storefront would be relegated to operate in only commercial or industrial zoned areas. It also calls for a six percent tax on cultivation sites, projecting millions of dollars of potential revenue for Long Beach. It would also provide for the operation of medical marijuana businesses in all districts rather than restricting them to the west and north sides of the city as earlier proposals had.
City Clerk Maria de la Luz Garcia said a team of five seasonal employees from her office will begin a raw count of the signatures Thursday and hopes to finish by the end of next week.
If the total number of signatures meet the minimum requirement of 24,909 her office will then begin sampling at least 500 submitted signatures, or three percent, whichever is greater.
“If through the technique we find that more than 110 percent of the number of signatures that we’re checking are valid then we certify the petition as sufficient,” de la Luz Garcia said.
Anything less would warrant her office to verify every single signature, until they reach the minimum 24,909.
The office has 30 days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, to finish the random sampling. De la Luz Garcia said that clock begins after the raw count is finished. If the sampling does not meet standards then her office is given 30 more days to verify the rest of the signatures.
The process is not only tedious, but time-sensitive.
Assuming the signatures are valid, the city clerk’s office will present a certificate of sufficiency before the city council after the verification process. The council then has until Aug. 12 to choose one of three options: at a city council meeting, accept the certificate and adopt the ordinance automatically so it doesn’t go through voters; or submit the ordinance without alteration to the voters and let voters decide; or lastly, order a report at the regular meeting where the city clerk presents the certificate and city departments get back to the council within 10 days to present their findings and potentially adopt the ordinance or let voters decide, de la Luz Garcia said.
Kelton said he and other volunteers plan to observe the verification process, which is open to the public and expected to begin at 11:00AM Thursday at the city clerk’s office. He said his group has gone through a pre-validation process to avoid submitting bad signatures, or ones completed by non-Long Beach voters.
“Ultimately we hope that their initial sample is sufficient and that they don’t have to validate every single signature and we expect that it will,” he said.