On Tuesday, May 21 in an election with a paltry 20% voter turnout, the voters of Los Angeles elected a cautiously pro-mmj mayor and passed one of the three mmj initiatives on the ballot. Newly elected Mayor Eric Garcetti and the successful measure D are very cautious in how they treat the distribution of marijuana, The new mayor supports mmj collectives, but they must be strictly controlled and limited and Measure D is certainly limited and strict.
Measure D allows for collectives opened before 2007 to operate which translates into only about 135. This absurdly small number will be providing marijuana to patients in a city of ten million. Not only have those 135 collectives gotten a permit to sell marijuana, they also got a license to print money.
Measure D is very problematic too. If a collective is closed more than 30 days they lose their permit so if they are raided by the feds (and they are getting raided!) that is the end of that permit. There are a bunch of other clauses that could cause problems for some collectives but the worst thing is that there will only be 135 for a city of ten million – that’s one collective for every ¾ million people not to mention there’s another 10 million people in surrounding cities and only West Hollywood allows them. And they only have seven and oh yeah guess what? - the DEA has been busy raiding and threatening them with closure.
Yet the passage of Measure D is a definite victory. Los Angeles voters could have voted no on all three mmj initiatives and the city could have just banned them. The passage of Measure D shows quite dramatically that voters do not agree with police who actively campaigned for voters to vote no on all three measures, but rather that they expect patients to have safe, reliable and local access – limited as it may be.
The question now is what actions do patients take in the Los Angeles metropolitan area to solidify and expand this victory. If patients in Los Angeles follow the path that they have been following since the passage of Prop. 215 and do little if anything other to quarrel amongst themselves, then we are doomed to continue to get trounced on by police and can watch this victory evaporate into thin air. This time, though, maybe they will wise up, unify and take action.
First off they need to start effectively politically organizing. It should become obvious very quickly that 135 collectives are not enough to serve what is essentially 20 million people. With so many people coming and going to them, they will produce congestion, long lines out front and become everything that no one wants. The only solution would be to allow more to open, but due to the opposition of police, that won’t happen unless patients are organized, elected officials are contacted and coalitions formed with community and neighborhood organizations.
One thing that is being done to make this happen is that a Brownie Mary Democratic Club is being formed. Having a BMDC chartered by the Los Angeles Democratic Central Committee will give patients access to the very organizations and politicians they are going to need on their side if access is to be expanded and protected.
Most importantly, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union was one of the big proponents of Measure D. They supported it with their members’ time, money and votes. There is quid pro quid here as the Unions expect the collectives to not just allow their employees to join the UFCW union, but to actively encourage it by becoming Union shops. It a win-win-win situation as employees will join and support the Union that supported them. This is not just good for the UFCW Union, it is good for the employees as it means they will get a living salary, decent health care and other benefits and a Union looking out their best interests.
For patients this could not be better as the Union will not be satisfied with just 135 union collectives serving 20 million people. They will be looking to expand their base and they will be a strong and vocal advocate for increasing the number of collectives as that will increase the number of Union workers.
As surrounding cities see that these collectives do not cause any problems and that their residents are going into Los Angeles and swelling LA’s tax coffers, they will want a piece of the pie and the UFCW will be there encouraging them to open collectives in their jurisdictions.
As for the federal attacks on the collectives, we are not going to stop these attacks on our own. We need allies and powerful allies and Unions are just that. They will want to protect their members’ jobs and they have the alliances that will bring many community organizations on board.
We will not get the DEA and Dept. of Justice to stop their raids by jumping up and down and shaking our fists at the sky. If that is all we do, we will continue to see mmj providers sentenced to ten years or more in federal prison – only our elected officials can end that injustice and we are going to need a lot of allies to bring that about.
Measure D is far from the ideal mmj collective ordinance, but it is infinitely superior to a ban. Whether you supported or opposed measure D, it is now the law in Los Angeles. It is now up to patients to make it work and make it better.