Here's What You Need to Know About the City's Lawsuit to Block a Marijuana Initiative From Getting on the March Ballot

Published : Thursday, December 12, 2019 | 6:16 AM

A lawsuit by the Pasadena City Council seeking to block an initiative from the March 2020 election was scheduled to go before a Los Angeles Superior Court judge today. The initiative would allow some unlicensed marijuana stores in Pasadena to continue to operate.

The unusual legal maneuver targets Pasadena City Clerk Mark Jomsky and the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean C. Logan in a bid to stop them from printing ballots containing the initiative.

The two officials earlier oversaw government processes qualifying the initiative for the ballot. 9,138 signatures collected by initiative backers were certified, earning a place on the ballot.

The initiative would allow some 18 marijuana retailers who have operated in violation of the Pasadena Municipal Code to temporarily continue operations without going through the current permitting process and without having to comply with any of the City’s current distance requirements.

The City Council’s lawsuit asks the court to prohibit Jomsky and Logan from including the initiative on the ballot for the March 3, 2020 election and from taking any further action to print the ballots, sample ballots, or other election materials that contain the initiative.

The suit also asks the court to declare the initiative is unconstitutional, invalid, and unenforceable.

Mayor Terry Tornek and all the City Councilmembers except Councilmember Tyron Hampton are plaintiffs in the lawsuit. (Hampton voted against supporting the lawsuit in closed session.)

According to City Attorney Michele Beal Bagneris, neither Jomsky nor Logan are the true targets of the lawsuit.

“The City Clerk and the County Registrar of Voters are not accused of any wrongdoing and are named in the lawsuit only as a technical procedural matter,” Bagneris said, adding, “any ruling from the court ordering the initiative to be removed from the ballot would have to be directed towards them. The proponents of the initiative, who are being sued as the real parties of interest, are the parties who will have to defend the validity of the initiative.

The real parties of interest are George Bernales, Susan Gomez and Alan Jay, the trio listed as the proponents of the ballot measure.

If the judge rules against the City, the measure will be printed on the ballot and go before residents March 3.

But if the judge agrees with Pasadena and orders that the initiative be removed from the ballot, the measure’s future would depend on the specific findings in the judge’s ruling. If the judge were to find the initiative is unconstitutional, as the City alleges, it could be difficult for the measure’s supporters to ever find wording acceptable to the court.

The deadline for printing the ballot is Jan. 3.

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