Sunday, May 20 , 2018, 5:20 am | Fair 50º


Local News

Supervisors Approve Moratorium on Medical-Marijuana Dispensaries

Sheriff Bill Brown says the move is an important step in avoiding the proliferation of distribution

Following in the city of Santa Barbara’s footsteps, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a moratorium on medical-marijuana dispensaries.

All cities within the county — except Santa Barbara, which approved a suspension on distribution — have banned or prohibited dispensaries.

As many other jurisdictions have found, it’s complicated to regulate and create policy based on foggy definitions.

Dispensaries — for profit, retail locations — are illegal in every sense, but closed-loop collectives and cooperatives are legal under Proposition 214 and Senate Bill 420. A collective with a storefront location can be considered legal if it’s nonprofit and all marijuana is provided by patients.

Patients can obtain medical marijuana by receiving a recommendation from their doctor, and they can register for a state-issued identification card.

While the supervisors attempted to put a stop to collectives as well — asking whether they could regulate people growing and giving it out of their homes, even to patients — the staff reminded them that collectives and cooperatives are legal under state law.

The moratorium is an important step in avoiding the proliferation of dispensaries, Sheriff Bill Brown said. They can be magnets for robbery and other crimes since they often have large amounts of cash and product on hand.

While some people said they are concerned about operating within the law, others use it as camouflage to distribute to both legitimate and illegitimate people.

“Some play both sides of the fence,” Brown said.

San Luis Obispo County has allowed some medical-marijuana facilities to open with minor-use permits, and Ventura County has had no need to take a stance, though the city of Ventura has banned them.

Throughout the local debate, many people involved in growing and distributing medical marijuana have spoken in favor of regulation so that the legitimate places are the only ones around. They are all in the position of a changing legal environment as well, and some have been outspoken in their efforts to stay within the law.

Mark Russell, who has been involved in collectives throughout the county, spoke to the board in favor of the moratorium. However, he urged the supervisors to be careful with ordinance wording, as collectives and dispensaries shouldn’t be thrown into the same definition.

A group of people who work together to grow for themselves is very different than an establishment that buys it and then sells it to others, he said.

The moratorium — during which no new dispensaries will be allowed to open — will initially last for 45 days but can be extended for up to two years.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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