Pasadena, California Sues Own Clerk Over Cannabis Initiative and Wins

Pasadena, California has won a lawsuit against its own city clerk after they approved a successful but unconstitutional ballot initiative that would have grandfathered in dispensaries who were operating before the city’s strict licensing rules took effect.

Full story after the jump.

The Pasadena, California City Council sued its own city clerk and the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder/county clerk over a ballot initiative to legalize 18 of the city’s illegally operating cannabis dispensaries and won, Pasadena Star-News reports.

The ballot initiative was approved by more than 9,100 residents and City Clerk Mark Jomsky, along with the L.A. County clerk, would have been responsible for approving and implementing the measure, which would have created a separate set of rules for the un-permitted dispensaries and exempted them from most of the city’s licensing process.

Judge Mary Strobel ruled that the initiative was unconstitutional because it created “a special privilege or advantage on specific organizations,” which is unlawful.

Frederic Woocher, a partner at law firm Strumwasser & Woocher who argued on behalf of the city, said the initiative was an improper use of the process and that initiatives can not make administrative changes, only legislative ones.

“The purpose of that (law) is to keep somebody from using the initiative power to secure special advantages for themselves.” – Woocher, to the Star-News

Attorney Stanley Kimmel, who argued on behalf of the initiative proponents, said the measure was intended to grandfather in shops that were around before the city passed its laws to allow recreational cannabis sales. Those rules prohibit current cannabusinesses operating in the city from applying for approval.

“There’s no doctrine that allows grandfathering of illegal uses,” Woocher said to the Star-News after the preliminary ruling. “This was really a perverse measure, and I think the court recognized it.”

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