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Proposition 19 — which would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana for personal use — is one of the most controversial measures on the upcoming Nov. 2 ballot.
If passed, Prop. 19 would allow people 21 and older to grow up to 25-square-feet of marijuana. It would also be legal for individuals to possess up to one ounce of marijuana.
In the Melrose area, between Fairfax and Highland Avenues, residents and business owners are worried if Prop. 19 passes, there could be a proliferation and reopening of medical marijuana dispensaries in the area.
In fact, at least one medical marijuana store that was ordered to close in June, “Buds on Melrose”, has re-opened in the past month, said Officer Art Gallegos, with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Wilshire Division.
“If Prop. 19 passes, we are going to see a major increase in stores reopening,” Gallegos said.
Gallegos added that orders from the city are to “stand down,” until warrants can be issued by the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office. Frank Mateljan, a spokesman for the city attorney’s office, said he hasn’t heard of the Melrose store re-opening, but would look into it.
Located at 7418 Melrose Ave., near Martel Avenue, the store’s website says it is a non-profit medical marijuana store open until 2:30 a.m. on weekend nights.
Gallegos said some property owners in the Melrose area, his primary beat, are asking him if the stores can come back.
“I keep hearing these stores want to reopen,” Gallegos said.
A Los Angeles city ordinance took effect on June 7 of this year, making most medical marijuana stores illegal and shut them down.
The city attorney’s office then sent letters to the owners of 439 dispensaries throughout the city informing owners they must close. The operators of those that remain open are subject to fines of $2,500 per day, as well as potential jail time.
“The neighborhood has improved greatly since this happened, it looks better than before,” said Paul Lerner, co-founder of the Melrose Action Neighborhood Watch.
Lerner said the primary concern for residents and merchants is to prevent what happened earlier last year, when a proliferation of about 15 medical marijuana stores brought in, what he called, a seedy element to the neighborhood.
“We have found that many of these dealers have no respect for law, no respect for our neighborhood, and no respect for their customers, or anything else,” Lerner said.
Mateljan said even if Prop 19 passes, it will not be legal for a store to sell recreational marijuana until the Los Angeles City Council passes an ordinance authorizing, regulating, taxing, and laying out rules for where and when such sales can take place.
Those in favor of the measure say by making marijuana legal, it would create safer communities, and reduce gang violence. Those who oppose it say the proposition is poorly written and would create conflicting laws throughout the state.
Local law enforcement officials, including Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, have come out in opposition to the measure, which Baca said would place a huge burden on law enforcement.
“It’s a poorly constructed initiative. It would create a patchwork of thousands of conflicting local laws, with no state standards,” Baca said.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder also issued a directive last week stating the federal government would continue to view marijuana as being illegal, regardless of Prop 19.
With Election Day less than two weeks away, Lerner and his group wants to spread the word that the property owners and community members understand that it will still be illegal to sell marijuana in the area. He said Melrose Action Neighborhood Watch will report any illegal activity to federal, state, and city authorities.
“We’ve all worked too hard to bring our neighborhood up. We’re not having pot dealers push it down,” Lerner said.
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