A shite storm is brewing in sunny Southern California.
A few months ago, Los Angeles voters approved Measure M by an 80% margin. In doing so, voters delivered a clear mandate for approved local cannabis companies to be issued business licenses.
But in Proposed Land-Use Regulations just released by the City, such legally operating cannabis companies would only qualify for "Certificates of Compliance" and limited immunity from prosecution.
This may seem esoteric, but a local business license is a fundamental requirement for licensing by the State of California, which is scheduled to start January 1, 2018. Lack of clarity on this issue could spell disaster for LA cannabis businesses and if so, could send thousands of jobs and millions in tax revenues outside the City.
Indeed, Governor Brown wrote to the California State Assembly on September 29, 2016: "I am returning Assembly Bill 2385 without my signature. This bill requires California agencies to issue medical cannabis licenses to Measure D compliant dispensaries in the City of Los Angeles [which makes it] inconsistent with dual licensing requirement established last year by the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act." (emphasis added)
In other words, with no local license, cannabis business operators and their workers (many of whom have labored for years) could be forced out of business, or outside the City. The word's largest cannabis market could effectively be shut down and with it, the potential for thousands of jobs, billions of dollars in sales, and hundreds of millions in new tax revenues for schools, public safety, and other public needs.
'Limited immunity' is more aggression than protection for cannabis businesses - it treats cannabis business owners (and their workers) like criminals first, not business owners or citizens. Limited immunity:
Does not mean a business is legal, or licensed
Can only be asserted as an affirmative defense in a criminal enforcement proceeding
Places the burden of proof on businesses for an affirmative defense.
In a press release last week, a group including cannabis business owners, patients, activists, workers, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 (UFCW), United Cannabis Business Association (UCBA), and the Los Angeles Cannabis Task Force called on the Los Angeles City Council and City Attorney Mike Feuer to honor the will of LA’s voters and issue the cannabis business licenses authorized by Measure M.
The City's proposal puts workers at risk: "The City’s land use proposal perpetuates limited immunity and the criminalization of cannabis, puts workers at risk on a daily basis, and denies them the opportunity for stable, quality and professional jobs with a future in this new industry," says UFCW Local 770 President Ricardo Icaza in the release.
“It’s totally unacceptable that the City is ready to tax our businesses, but won’t issue licenses allowing us to operate. LA’s voters were loud and clear: make cannabis businesses legal in LA,” said Jerred Kiloh, President of the UCBA Trade Association.
Ariel Clark, chair of the LA Cannabis Task Force, is quoted as saying, “The City’s proposal keeps cannabis business in LA illegal, which flies in the face of Measure M, Prop 64, and the medical cannabis regulations signed into law by Governor Brown."
Therefore, says Clark, "The City is obligated to create a licensing program that gives businesses the right to legally operate in LA.”
No response yet from the City.