Thomas Gale Moore, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, and his wife, Cassandra Chrones Moore, a public-policy researcher at the Cato Institute, submitted the notice of intent to circulate an initiative petition to the City Clerk on May 31.
The petition will ask the City Council to consider creating an ordinance for the dispensaries or to put the measure on the ballot before voters, he said on Wednesday (June 22).
The Moores were approached by the Marijuana Policy Project to kick off the drive, he said.
Petitioners have 180 days to gather 2,178 signatures, if they plan to put the measure on the November 2012 ballot. To schedule a special election for the measure, they need 4,356 signatures, City Clerk Donna Grider said Wednesday.
Palo Alto adopted an ordinance in 1997 stating that medical marijuana is not a permitted use under its zoning ordinances, and therefore it isn't permitted in the city, according to the City Attorney's Office.
The proposed ordinance would allow terminally ill residents to legally obtain marijuana near their homes if they have the approval of a physician.
Proposition 215 was passed by California voters in 1996 to allow people to buy marijuana with a prescription, but the city has failed to implement the law, according to a public notice the Moores published May 27 in the Palo Alto Weekly.
The Moores also contend that a similar ordinance in San Jose generated $290,000 for the city in the first month and that taxes would add to the city's general fund. The notice urges the council to use the revenue for public safety and education.
The law would limit the number of dispensaries to three, and they could not be located in a residential area or near a park, school or day care center. Anyone wishing to operate a dispensary would be required to meet strict qualifications, according to the public notice.
Moore said marijuana dispensaries could be permitted in already existing liquor stores, which require a license and where regulations already control sales to minors and where beverages may be consumed. Alcohol is a permitted use, yet causes more acts of violence than marijuana, he said.
Marijuana helps cancer patients tolerate chemotherapy and helps with glaucoma and chronic pain from multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and spinal-cord injuries, according to the Moores. A Harvard University survey found that almost half of oncologists nationwide said they would prescribe marijuana to their patients if it were legal in their state, they said.
Moore wouldn't mind having a dispensary at a liquor store in his Barron Park neighborhood, he said. But he doesn't know what his neighbors think about that idea.
In Washington state, an effort to allow marijuana sales in liquor stores failed to win approval, after a House of Representatives bill didn't advance out of committees by April 1.
Palo Alto City Attorney Molly Stump said she has not seen the petition and would not comment on it yet.
The sale of alcohol is highly regulated, and she doesn't yet know if marijuana could qualify for sale through liquor stores, she said.
"I don't know if that's possible or if it needs a state-level approval to be enacted. I'm not sure what are the permissible boundaries," she said.
Moore said he and his wife do not smoke marijuana, but they strongly support legalization of all drugs because an international commission found the war against drugs is a "total failure."
The Moores have joined other prominent voices from former conservative administrations that are calling for decriminalization of drugs. George P. Schulz, former Secretary of State under Reagan, and Paul A. Volcker, former chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, have published articles in support of drug legalization.
"We've created violence in Latin America. We've destroyed much of Mexico," Moore said of cartels that profit from U.S. drug policies. Prohibitions only serve to force use underground where sales are in the hands of violent criminals, Moore said.
"Al Capone was the result of Prohibition in the 1920s," he said, noting the country's murder rate rose while it was in effect and dropped after repeal.
In 2001, Portugal decriminalized all drugs and instituted rehabilitation. There, drug use is not going up. The same has been shown to be true in other countries where drugs have been legalized or decriminalized, he said.
"The petition is a little step," he conceded.
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