Seeking to overturn the city’s medical marijuana ordinance even before it takes effect, a loose-knit coalition of Los Angeles collectives is quietly gathering signatures to force a referendum on the law.
The scrappy, largely volunteer effort faces a Monday deadline to turn in 27,425 valid signatures.
“We’re getting down to the wire here,” said Dan Halbert, who runs Rainforest Collective in Mar Vista and has coordinated the campaign. “It’s going to be close.”
Halbert’s dispensary on Venice Boulevard, which opened last year, is one of hundreds that would have to close under the ordinance. That law, which will probably not be in effect until May, caps the number at 70. But it also makes an exception to allow about 128 dispensaries that registered in 2007, when the City Council adopted a moratorium, to stay open.
“They are just kind of arbitrarily drawing a line in the sand,” said Halbert, who argues that the competitive business environment would eventually reduce the number on its own, leaving only the best-run collectives.
To City Council members, Halbert is just one of hundreds of opportunists out to make a quick buck. His store was among those targeted last summer by a chagrined council after neighborhood activists repeatedly complained that marijuana outlets were rapidly opening across the city despite the moratorium.
An entrepreneur who owned an adventure travel business in Phoenix, Halbert moved to Los Angeles to open his dispensary after three trips to investigate the city’s vibrant weed industry. He said he never would have started the business if the city had been enforcing its ban. Now he has become a political activist trying to save his livelihood and torpedo an ordinance that the City Council has labored over for almost two years.
“Once you get $100,000 charged on credit cards, you really don’t have any choice,” he said. “You have a choice of bankruptcy or trying every legal avenue that you have to get your rights.”
The last time a referendum qualified for the ballot, the City Council backed down on the targeted ordinance.