CITY HALL — A petition meant to give Santa Monica voters a chance to decide whether or not to include medical marijuana dispensaries in the city has gone to pot.

Two residents filed the initiative with the City Clerk’s Office in May but, after the 180-day deadline, they turned in zero signatures, City Clerk Sarah Gorman told the Daily Press. Representatives associated with the initiative said they’ll try again.

The residents, Melina Madrigal and Holly McKay, would have had to collected signatures from 15 percent of registered Santa Monica voters during that six-month window. If the signatures were deemed sufficient by the City Clerk, the initiative would have gone to a public vote.

If passed by voters, the ballot initiative would have amended Municipal Code to allow for two dispensaries and set tax guidelines for marijuana-related businesses.

Aaron Green, of Afriat Consulting Group, which has been brought on to manage the campaign, said they opted not to file any signatures because they’d like to improve the initiative’s language.

“We definitely plan to refile,” Green said. “We are working on an initiative and it will be similar to what we filed previously. We found that we could make some improvements and enhancements to the version that we had previously submitted that would provide for neighborhood protections and benefits in a way that hadn’t previously been included.”

Advocates of the initiative raised $20,000 during election season but it’s unclear if any of that money was spent.

It’s also unclear as to when the new initiative will be filed.

“I don’t have a filing date but we’re moving forward as expeditiously as possible,” said Green, who is not a resident of Santa Monica.

In the meantime, City Hall is in the midst of redrafting its Zoning Ordinance, which will regulate land uses throughout the city including the potential sale of marijuana.

The current code does not allow for dispensaries.  City Council will have the final say on the new Zoning Ordinance.

The draft of the ordinance is currently with the Planning Commission, which recommended that council allow two medical marijuana dispensaries to be included in the Zoning Code. Given the direction that city officials seem to be headed, some have questioned the need for an initiative.

The first initiative, which was filed on behalf of the residents by Los Angeles attorney David Welch, drew ire from locals on both sides of the medical marijuana debate. Welch said that city officials were not moving fast enough.

Now-retired City Councilmember Bob Holbrook, who vehemently opposes the allowance of dispensaries within the city limits, told the Daily Press in May the initiative was “all about money.”

And Councilmember Ted Winterer, who is more open to the idea of allowing dispensaries in the city, had problems with the specific language in the initiative, which seemed to give favor to two particular prospective business owners.

Even Bill Leahy, spokesperson for Santa Monicans for Safe Access (SAMOSA), which advocates for dispensaries in the city, took issue with the initiative, noting, among other things, that its restrictions were too liberal and could have drawn heat from the federal government.

In a strange wrinkle to the story, Welch claims that his organization is also called Santa Monicans for Safe Access, a name that he’s registered with the Secretary of the State.

Nearly all of the SAMOSA-related content that the Daily Press was able to find traces back to Leahy’s Facebook page and coalition.

Leahy warned Welch that if he continues to use the name it would be prima facie evidence that he is engaged in violations of trademark laws.

dave@smdp.com

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