COMPTON — The debate over whether to allow the sale of marijuana continues as a petition is circulating to put a measure on the November ballot to permit dispensaries to operate legally in the city.
“Compton already has marijuana businesses operating in the city without any controls,” said Bill Ivey, the resident who filed the initiative. “If it is legal, we could have better regulated, unionized dispensaries.”
Voters in California last November approved Proposition 64, legalizing the recreational use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21. That law takes effect next Jan. 1.
Until then, it is still illegal to sell the drug and grow it for commercial purposes in Compton.
Ivey, who also ran an unsuccessful campaign for District 2 on the Compton City Council in April, said his union, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 324, asked him to file the motion for the referendum. In order to get on the ballot, the petition would need the support of 15 percent of the registered voters in the city.
UFCW represents those employed in the food, dental, financial, health care, optometry, packing house, processing, retail drug and merchandise industries.
Ivey’s action has prompted a backlash from other residents, who question the motives of outside interests who are not stakeholders in the city.
“I talked to one of the walkers with the petition and she doesn’t even live in Compton, she lives in West L.A.,” said Jackie Barra, a resident who has lived in Compton since 1968.
“I asked her if she was being paid, and she responded with, ‘why would I be walking out here in the hot sun if I wasn’t?”
Another concern is that allowing the industry in Compton would create more targets for robberies and crime. Since the federal government still classifies marijuana as an illegal drug, many banks will not open accounts for dispensaries.
Barra referenced a shooting on July 19 during an attempted armed robbery at a South Los Angeles pot dispensary that resulted in the death of a security guard and three others being wounded.
“We’ve already had a crack epidemic in this town and we’re not quite over that,” Barra said. “We don’t need this!”
Barra has sent out for yard signs protesting the legalization of marijuana and said she has given out about 100 over the course of two weeks. She also said she created a counter petition but does not want to send it out for fear of further confusion.
Regarding the fear of violence, Ivey said that with the revenue from legal dispensaries, the city could afford to take additional measures to increase safety.
“They could install a surveillance system. It won’t stop all crime, but at least it would be a deterrence,” he said. “Legalization would bring scrutiny and guidelines.”
At the July 25 City Council meeting, the City Council voted down a resolution from Councilman Isaac Galvan to authorize a private law firm, Greenberg Gross LLP to assist with litigation to enforce the ban of marijuana.
Although she opposes the sale of the drug in the city, longtime resident Susan Adams is glad the resolution did not pass.
“Although it seems helpful in theory, this firm has represented both sides of the cannabis industry,” she said. “A client conflict of interest could arise and what would happen then?”
She also questioned the need to involve an outside firm when the city attorneys could prioritize the issue and keep the money in Compton.