August 11, 2014

Legalizing Medical Cannabis Dispensaries in Santa Ana

Orange County has a reputation for an anti-dispensary sentiment. In fact, there is an outright ban against medical cannabis collectives, cooperatives and dispensaries in the majority of the cities in Orange County. The few cities without a ban have hardly taken any steps to address the issue at all. Therefore, most patients in OC must obtain their medicines from delivery services operating in the gray.

Previously, in the month of January’s issue of Legal Corner, we wrote about different cities’ positions on medical cannabis dispensaries in California. Specifically, we addressed the city of Santa Ana. At that time, the city attorney had placed a ban on dispensaries and sent out letters threatening to shut them down. Shortly after the letters went out, Santa Anians amassed to petition against the city’s decision, which actually succeeded in allowing dispensaries to operate without issue—at least until this November’s election! Originally, the only proposed ordinance allowed for at least 12 dispensaries. Things have changed since then.

Currently, with November approaching fast, Santa Anians have taken strides to host legal medical cannabis dispensaries and, in response, the city council has proposed its own ordinance. Therefore, there are currently two measures that will be on November’s ballot for voters to choose.

1. The Medical Cannabis Restriction and Limitation Initiative, proposes that collectives and cooperatives register with the city and pay a two percent tax. Furthermore, the measure would allow dispensaries in certain city zones and one legal collective per 15,000 residents. Additionally, collectives would not be able to operate within 600 feet from schools.

2. Then, in early July, the Santa Ana city council voted to put a measure on the November ballot to let voters decide if medical cannabis collectives and cooperatives should be legalized and taxed in the city. Council members claim that The Medical Cannabis Restriction and Limitation Initiative insufficiently regulates the industry. If approved, the city council’s measure would require a 500-foot separation between collectives and cooperatives. The measure further restricts locations to only two industrial zones in the city. Also, even more restrictive than Los Angeles’s Proposition D, it would require a 1000-foot separation from schools, parks, and residential zones. Lastly, collectives may be taxed five percent initially, and possibly 10 percent thereafter.

It was approved on a 4-3 vote from the council.

State Senator Lou Correa who represents Santa Ana and champions statewide regulation per SB1262, paid a visit to a council meeting to throw in his two cents on these measures. The Senator claims to want to make sure they are “doing it right,” in regards to taxes from medical cannabis be applied to fund public safety functions.

Santa Anians now have to vote on which one of these initiatives they want regulating the city’s medical cannabis dispensaries. Although having two measures on the ballot on the same issue may be a bit redundant, it’s clear that voters will have to decide how restrictive they want their law to be. Unfortunately, as is the case with most ballot measures, there are pros and cons to both. The voter initiative is good in that it allows for a reasonable number of dispensaries to accommodate the needs of thousands and thousands of patients. However, it does not regulate the industry adequately. On the flip side, the city’s measure is too restrictive and will likely lead to a continued black market.

Most importantly, though, the citizens of Santa Ana have demonstrated with their civic bravado how easy it is to create regulation on a grass roots level and they have paved the way for all cities in Orange County to follow suit.

Hope you find this article helpful. Contact Meital Manzuri for further help. Meital Manzuri is a Los Angeles-based criminal defense attorney, speaker and consultant for patients, collectives and dispensaries. If you have questions about medical cannabis or any other criminal defense matters, she can be contacted via phone at (310) 601-3140 or

Disclaimer: This article has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice.