A City Sues Itself to Stop a Marijuana Ballot Initiative

City council members in Pasadena, California are taking the unusual step of suing other city government representatives in order to keep a marijuana-related initiative off the ballot.

City council members in Pasadena, California are taking the unusual step of suing other city government representatives in order to keep a marijuana-related initiative off the ballot. Shutterstock


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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | New York City debuts cargo bikes program … Ohio may ban local plastic bag ordinances … Texas representative drops reelection bid after remarks about Asian opponents.

City council members in Pasadena, California are taking the unusual step of suing other city government representatives in order to keep a marijuana-related initiative off the ballot. While marijuana is legal in California, 18 pot retailers have been operating in violation of local ordinances. The ballot measure, which is slated for a March election date after backers collected more than 9,000 signatures, would allow the companies to keep operating temporarily without going through the city’s permitting process and comply with other rules. Named in the lawsuit are Pasadena City Clerk Mark Jomsky and the County Registrar of Voters, although City Attorney Michele Beal Bagneris said they are not at fault. “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, because any ruling from the Court ordering the Initiative to be removed from the ballot would have to be directed towards them,” Bagneris said. The lawsuit says that the initiative is unconstitutional and unenforceable because it grants some business owners “the special and exclusive privilege to operate marijuana dispensaries without having to obtain a permit and without having to comply with City restrictions on the location of cannabis businesses, such as those voter-approved zoning laws imposing separation and distance requirements from sensitive uses like schools, places of worship, and residential zones.” The city is asking for a judge to remove the initiative, which collected 9,138 signatures, from the city’s March 2020 ballot. Proponents of the measure, including dispensary owner Shaun Szameit, will now have to defend it in court, though they are not named in the suit. “I think it’s criminal for the city to thwart the will of the people … they are trying to be creative to sabotage and eliminate the inclusion of the local operators,” Szameit said. [Pasadena News Now; Pasadena Star News]

CARGO BIKES | A new program in New York City will attempt to replace some delivery trucks with electric cargo bikes. Run by the city’s Department of Transportation, the program will allow companies like Amazon, UPS, and DHL to park cargo bikes in commercial loading areas otherwise reserved for trucks. Unlike trucks, the bikes will not have to pay meters. Polly Trottenberg, New York’s transportation commissioner, said that replacing trucks with bikes will make roads safer and reduce emissions. “Around the world, we have seen how freight companies use cargo bikes to move goods around dense urban neighborhoods more efficiently,” she said. The program will start with 100 bikes, 90 of which are operated by Amazon. Rebecca Gansert, Amazon’s vice president for specialty fulfillment, said the company plans to expand as the city allows more bikes. “We’re starting with 90 bikes and plan to significantly grow that number in the coming months. We appreciate the City of New York and its support of innovative programs to bring more sustainable delivery options to the city,” she said. [Streetsblog; New York Times

PLASTIC BAG BAN PREEMPTION | The Ohio legislature is considering two measures that would block local governments from banning or taxing plastic bags. Legislative leaders now believe they can pass the legislation before the end of the year. State Sen. Michael Rulli, a Republican who introduced one of the bills, said that the House and Senate have both shown interest in passing the legislation quickly. “I think there’s probably the support now between both bodies of the legislature to get it done. And we’re going to try to get it out of the House before we go on holiday break,” he said. Kent Scarrett, executive director for the Ohio Municipal League, said that state preemption has been on the rise. “It’s concerning, because there seems to be an appetite for doing something this General Assembly in both chambers, where we didn’t feel there was such an appetite last session,” he said. Ben Kessler, the mayor of Bexler, a Columbus suburb that enacted a plastic bag ban this year, noted that “communities regulate and tax all kinds of things. To single out a plastic bag just seems like an interesting carve-out.” [Cleveland.com; Statehouse News]

TEXAS REPRESENTATIVE | Texas State Rep. Rick Miller dropped his reelection bid this week after he lost the endorsement of Gov. Greb Abbot following Miller’s remarks about his Asian opponents in the Republican primary. In an interview, Miller said that his two primary challengers were only running because they were Asian in a district that is increasingly racially diverse. Miller was being challenged by Jacey Jetton and Leonard Chan. Of Jetton, he said that he decided to run “because he is an Asian that my district might need an Asian to win. And that’s kind of racist in my mind,” and of Chan, he said that he had “no idea who he is. He has not been around Republican channels at all, but he’s an Asian.” Abbott, also a Republican, withdrew his support for Miller because his comments were “inappropriate and out of touch.” Miller later called his own comments “insensitive and inexcusable.” Jetton said the remarks show the district needs a change. “It has nothing to do with whether I’m part Korean or anything else, it’s just the fact that I’m showing up and the other communities are excited about that. I think it’s unfortunate he’s trying to make it a race thing when it’s really just being willing to communicate with anyone in the district,” Jetton said. [CBS; Texas Tribune]

TEXT HOTLINE | Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a new feature of the state’s sexual assault hotline that allows survivors to text a numberto receive immediate help from trained professionals. The new text feature will be 24/7, free, and confidential. “This texting feature is an important way to make sure every survivor in Michigan has direct access to the support and resources they deserve. I want every survivor in our state to know that your voice and your story matter, and when you’re ready to talk, we’re ready to listen,” Whitmer said. Debi Cain, Executive Director of the Division of Victim Services within the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said that the texting feature for number 1-866-238-1454 will offer more options for help. “Now more than ever before, survivors in Michigan have direct access to the support and resources they need for immediate help and long-term healing,” she said. [Click on Detroit]

Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.

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