Santa Ana Approves Funds to Defend Challenges to Pot Law

The Santa Ana City Council Tuesday night approved a three-year contract for legal fees related to lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of Measure BB, last year’s voter-approved initiative to legalize and regulate medical marijuana dispensaries.

Council members unanimously approved the resolution, which authorizes up to $500,000 in legal services from the municipal law firm Richards, Watson and Gershon.

Of the total amount, $80,000 would come out of this year’s City Attorney’s Office budget. The rest will be budgeted in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 fiscal years.

Councilwoman Michele Martinez was concerned about general fund dollars going toward defending the city’s marijuana policy, rather than dedicated revenues from fees and business taxes generated by the dispensaries themselves.

So far, seven lawsuits have been filed challenging the constitutionality of Measure BB, which allows a limited number of dispensaries, selected by lottery, to operate in certain designated industrial zones.

City Attorney Sonia Carvalho said $370,000 in revenue from medical marijuana fees could go toward funding the litigation, and believes there will be enough future marijuana revenue to fund the remaining costs.

“We expect this litigation to be expected..and go up to the Court of Appeals. It could be another two, three, four years before it sees a resolution,” said Carvalho. “I think half a million dollars is a low estimate.”

Councilman Vincent Sarmiento reminded the council that the legal challenges were anticipated.

“I think this is part of [the cost of] doing business and introducing a new industry into the city that is going to generate more revenue, much more than half a million dollars,” Sarmiento said. “Let’s not get sticker shock.”

Contact Thy Vo at and follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.

  • letitiapepper

    Lotteries can be fixed. Lotteries controlled by politicians are the worst. That is why the City of Santa Ana put its own initiative, with a lottery system, on the ballot to compete with the citizens’ initiative. Now all governments — state, local and federal — want to get into the overly lucrative business of “legalized” marijuana. That is why the only real answer for the 99 percent is not “legalization” — which keeps prices artificially high through excessive taxes, fees, and business costs like “campaign contributions” (i.e., BRIBES)– but DECRIMINALIZATION.
    DECRIMINALIZE, don’t legalize.
    Watch and see what happens to “legalized” recreational marijuana in Washington and Colorado. The U.S. Supreme Court will conclude that states cannot legalize the recreational use of any drug on the federal Controlled Substances Act. States CAN allow the decriminalization of marijuana fro medicinal use, but cannot legalize its recreational use. This will put the systems for cannabis distribution into disarray in those states, which will hurt the people who really NEED cannabis the most.
    DEFEND PROP. 215. A vote to “legalize” recreational use will DESTROY California good medicianl marijuana law, because marijuana is marijuana, and a law that changes the law about marijuana will destroy Prop. 215 rights unless it is VERY carefully written.
    The only initiatives which are any good are CCHI2016 and the Compassionate and Sensible Care Act, which compliment each other and protect individuals’ rights, and do not further the rights of the government and corporations to take financial control of this sacred plant.

    • Paul Lucas

      Those people in Santa Ana especially Sal Tinajero, and Michelle Martinez and roman Reyna did everything in their power to keep the seriously ill and needy out of this process and relegate them to the position of being dependent upon gang members to get medicine.

    • Paul Lucas

      They need to scrap BB and replace it with a measure that grants priority to patients to run dispensaries so we can maintain the dignity of prop 215 and sb 420.

  • Paul Lucas

    This whole thing is stupid. They stated they anted to keep it out of the hands of the gang members. When it came time to apply the people applying were all gang members with bags full of cash and lo and behold no one but gang members got the lottery balls that won. Pathetic and stupid.