Every now and then, two ballot measures addressing the same issue in slightly different ways end up on an election ballot at the same time. And a bit more rarely, supporters of one of those measures abandon their proposed measure in favor of the other. This is exactly what has happened this year with Measures M and N, both of which address regulating marijuana sales in the city of Los Angeles.
Measure N, which was originally sponsored by the United Cannabis Business Alliance, a group representing marijuana sellers, was the first to qualify for the ballot. It calls for the establishment of an official city permitting process for cannabis-related businesses, with priority for sellers of medical marijuana (previously legalized in California) but also allowing for the future regulation of sales for recreational use (legalized in the November 2016 election, and beginning in 2018). It also proposes rules for the locations of marijuana sales, authorizes fines and penalties for non-permitted marijuana sales activities, and proposes a tax of $80 per $1,000 of gross receipts.
A bit later, however, the Los Angeles City Council, hoping to cover the regulation bases a bit more comprehensively, proposed its own marijuana regulation scheme, which is now being offered on the same ballot under the name Measure M. The city council-sponsored Measure M addresses the same issues – a city permitting process, the establishment of criminal penalties, nuisance abatement and other penalties for violations, and a more detailed tax scheme, including taxes on both gross receipts and additional activities such as marijuana transportation, testing, research, manufacturing, cultivation and more. It would also give the City Council the official authority to develop the specifics of the regulatory scheme through a series of public hearings later this year, and the ability to change or add new regulations as needed over time.
Measure M, with the sponsorship of the City Council, has won endorsements from the L.A. Times, L.A. Weekly, and – yes – even the United Cannabis Business Alliance, the original sponsor of Measure N, which has now abandoned that earlier proposal and is urging its members and supporters to vote “yes” for Measure M and “no” on Measure N (which now has no current endorsements or official supporters).
Finally, it’s worth noting that both measures need a simple majority of voter support to pass. This means that if both measures win more than 50% of the vote, the measure that receives the most votes will take precedence. (And that means that voting yes vote on both measures, as some voters might tempted to do to ensure that one or the other passes, could actually muddy the waters.)