Good news for local medical-marijuana patients: The effort to repeal San Diego's brand-new collective-constraining ordinance is on track to hand in enough signatures on Friday to force a special election.
As of Sunday, May 22, medical-marijuana proponents had collected more than 40,000 signatures to put a referendum on the ballot, says Craig Beresh, who represents the California Cannabis Coalition. The coalition is working closely with the Patient Care Association of California, an organization of marijuana collectives, on the campaign.
“If we had more time, I bet there would be a lot more signatures, because they were not hard to get,” Beresh says.
“They were extremely easy to get, even with all the rain we've had.”
Medical-marijuana patients and collectives almost universally took issue with the ordinance, specifically its distance and zoning restrictions and the lack of a grace period or grandfathering provisions. Beresh says that 70 collectives and their members ponied up more than $100,000 to hire La Jolla Group, a professional signature-gathering firm. By Friday, Beresh hopes to have close to 47,000 signatures, but they need only 31,029 in order to get the referendum on the ballot Of course, it may not get that far. A special election would cost the cash-strapped city between $2.8 million and $3.4 million, according to estimates from the San Diego County Registrar of Voters. Earlier this year, the San Diego City Council backed down and repealed an ordinance to regulate super-center stores after Walmart collected enough signatures for a special election.
“I would suspect the council would vote to repeal it in order to save the taxpayers the cost of $3 million at a time when we're trying to restore library hours,” Councilmember Todd Gloria, who voted for the ordinance, tells CityBeat.
Councilmembers Carl DeMaio and Lorie Zapf voted against the original ordinance; Zapf 's spokesperson says she'd vote to repeal. Councilmembers Kevin Faulconer, Tony Young, Marti Emerald, David Alvarez and Sherri Lightner said they won't comment until the signatures are verified.
There's also an element of instant gratification. The ordinance is suspended once the City Clerk officially accepts the signatures. The Registrar has 30 days to validate the signatures; if they don't meet the 32,000 threshold, the ordinance goes back into effect. If they do meet the threshold, the ordinance remains suspended until the city repeals it or schedules an election.
Hypothetically speaking, there may be a way to push that election to next June (the council has 11 months to hold the election), but the ordinance would be on hold in the interim.
Correction: We incorrectly reported that Craig Beresh represents both the California Cannabis Coalition and the Patient Care Association of California. Beresh officially represents the coalition, but not the association, though he has worked closely with the group throughout the process. We have edited the story accordingly and regret the error.