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Editorial: Wait for voters on pot decision

July 03, 2010

A move by Supervisor Mike Antonovich to ban medical marijuana dispensaries to unincorporated areas of the county is premature, given that California voters will be asked whether they want to legalize the drug in a few months.

With the November ballot initiative to legalize and tax marijuana sales looming large, many local governments have decided to put off any final decisions. Right now, the verdict could tip either way. In the latest poll from the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California, 49% of likely voters think marijuana use should be made legal, 48% do not and 3% are undecided.

Given the down-to-the-wire vote, and possible legal challenges to follow, it seems reasonable to put off any changes to local regulations that will have major effects on law enforcement strategies and personal choices until after the people and courts have decided the issue.

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After all, we're not just talking about recreational use here. As one pot dispensary owner put it, some medical marijuana patients who have difficulty traveling rely on nearby options, especially those who live in more rural areas. That is, the unincorporated areas of our county.

In Glendale, city attorneys have been holding off as they evaluate the ever-changing legal landscape. Meanwhile, a moratorium has deflected several applications to open dispensaries inside city boundaries.

The county Board of Supervisors would do well to follow suit. If voters reject the legalization bid, fine. But if they don't, it will be much easier to adjust to all the legal ramifications without a now legally dubious ban. Let's be sure we know the boundaries first before committing to a strategy.

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