Editorial: New cannabis bill would nuke will of voters on local control

The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Op Eds

When California voters allowed the use of recreational cannabis by adults statewide in 2016 -- enacting Proposition 64 by a 57% to 43% margin -- a key provision of the measure said local governments could "ban nonmedical marijuana businesses." This reassured many voters because it respected the fact that communities could have different views of how common and accessible cannabis should be -- and because it gave local leaders a way to crack down if a massive drug legalization experiment went awry.

Now about two-thirds of California municipalities ban recreational marijuana businesses, as is their right. But the question of what this voter-approved measure does -- and does not -- permit is up in the air. Reasonable minds -- and lawyers -- are already arguing over a 2017 law that was designed to let cannabis deliveries operate in jurisdictions that didn't allow retail marijuana shops. If that exploits a loophole, a proposal by Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, would absolutely nuke the will of voters. His Assembly Bill 1356 would require cities in which a majority of voters supported Proposition 64 to issue permits to at least one cannabis retailer for every 15,000 residents or one for every six restaurants or bars with a liquor permit, whichever is less.

This wouldn't just rewrite a ballot initiative. It would rewrite local control to be whatever Sacramento decides is best. That Ting's bill has already passed two Assembly committees -- with support from San Diego Democrats Lorena Gonzalez and Todd Gloria -- reflects contempt for democracy.

If local elected leaders block marijuana sales against constituents' wishes, they can be voted out of office. That is local control. If this bill ultimately passes and breaks a central promise of Proposition 64, the lawmakers that back it can be booted, too.


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