Medical Cannabis Ballot Initiative Pulled, Groups Back Unified Measure

Just a week after news surfaced that the voters in Long Beach could potentially have the choice of two ballot measures aimed at legalizing medical marijuana collectives in the city, one group announced it was pulling the plug on its efforts to combine forces to form one non-competing initiative.

The announcement came yesterday in the form of a letter sent out by Larry King, a former winner/operator of the city’s lottery MMJ lottery and member of the Long Beach Medical Cannabis Task Force. In the letter King stated that he felt the second effort put forward by the Long Beach Neighborhoods First group—not to be mistaken for a group by the same name that often petitions motions pertaining to Long Beach Airport—was a fair compromise and very closely mirrored an ordinance he authored as part of the recommendations turned over to the city council with the task force recommendations last year.

“At the time that I agreed to be the proponent of that initiative, it was the only show in town,” King wrote. “And I was still shell-shocked and angry from the non-compassionate misrepresentations used by prohibitionist forces in the City Council to coerce new members to do an about-face on their previous pro-dispensary votes in forcing the 2012 ban to stand in place.”

The two initiatives had the same goal of legalizing storefront and cultivation operations in the city, but differed vastly in how the business should be regulated. The so-called “King initiative” sought to institute a scenario where there would be no cap on the number of storefronts in Long Beach, allow operations to occur in all zones and placed no buffer zones on cultivation.


The proposal submitted to the city clerk’s office by LBNF, otherwise known as the “Kelton initiative,” was based largely on the specifications vetted out by the task force over the course of last year and had garnered support from both local unions, elected officials and business interests. Bob Kelton, a cancer survivor, member of the LBNF coalition and lead petitioner of the initiative, said in a statement last week that the proposal represented a “winning model” for Long Beach and California. 

Adam Hijazi, a board member of the Long Beach Collective Association, former member of the task force and former business operator, said that about 90 percent of the proposals that were submitted to the council before eventually being shelved were included in the Kelton initiative, with the rest being tweaked to include the recent guidelines established at the state level by the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA) late last year.

Hijazi described the 1,000-foot buffer zones from all schools, 600-foot buffers from parks, beaches and libraries, 1,000-foot buffers from other collectives and a per-captia limit on dispensaries—one for every 18,000 residents, or roughly 25 city wide—as part of a workable ordinance for both business operators, the city and its residents.

If passed, the ordinance would also close dispensary storefronts at 8:00PM and relegate them to operation in only commercial or industrial zoned areas. It also calls for a six percent tax on gross receipts and a $10 per square foot tax on cultivation sites, projecting to millions of dollars of potential revenue for Long Beach. It would also provide for the operation of medical marijuana businesses in all districts instead of relegating them to the west and north sides of the city as earlier proposals had. 

“We definitely came from a pretty well-rounded approach, being that we’ve been involved in Long Beach, caring for Long Beach for such a long time,” Hijazi told the Post last week. “I think we brought something forward that’s in compliance with state law and looks after Long Beach’s landscape as well.” 


The more measured approach by the LBNF coalition, combined with its union backing, made it the more plausible of the two initiatives to gather the required 10 percent (24,900) of registered voters’ signatures in order to qualify for the November ballot.

In his letter, King said he was certain that once this initiative makes it to the ballot it would have no problem receiving “roughly 80 percent” support of those residents that already favor medical cannabis. King added that in conjunction with his shutting down of the King initiative, he’s asked members of that coalition to throw their support behind the Kelton proposal to form a unified front, but also to avoid the confusion of potentially having two similar ballot measures for voters to pick from this November.

“I believe that having dueling ordinances with similar agendas would be detrimental to the overall cause,” King wrote. “Voters would be confused, as they were in Los Angeles with their dueling measures. That is why I am shutting down the so-called “King” Initiative and throwing my support to the Kelton Initiative.”

The effort by both groups comes on the heels of years of advocating and crafting potential ordinances to reinstitute the medical marijuana business back into the city. Last year, the city council had several opportunities to act on the issue, in one instance even voting to allow for delivery-only businesses to operate, but opted instead to receive and file the motion as it anticipated a ballot measure to form either at the state or local level. If the Kelton initiative gets the necessary signatures the voters in Long Beach will have a direct voice in the fate of the industry in the city going forward. 

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Jason Ruiz has been covering City Hall for the Post for nearly a decade. A Long Beach resident, Ruiz graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a degree in journalism. He and his wife Kristina and, most importantly, their dog Mango, live in Long Beach. He is a particularly avid fan of the Dallas Cowboys and the UCLA Bruins, which is why he sometimes comes to work after the weekend in a grumpy mood.