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Committee Facing Task of Finalizing Proposed Revisions to Pot Ordinance

Locations and regulations remain sticking points as members will meet Tuesday for the last time before sending recommendations to the City Council. Check out Noozhawk's map of medical marijuana dispensaries in Santa Barbara

View Santa Barbara Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in a larger map (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk map)

In its last meeting before the city’s medical-marijuana ordinance goes back to the Santa Barbara City Council, the Ordinance Committee on Tuesday will put forth its recommendations for revisions.

There has been a lack of consensus among the committee’s three members over the details of operational requirements and allowable locations, though they’ve agreed that any storefront dispensaries must comply with the collective/cooperative model.

In an attempt to ensure dispensaries operate as collectives as allowed by Proposition 215 and Senate Bill 420, members have suggested requiring that the marijuana be cultivated in the Tri-County area and distributed by and to members of the collective.

After the former Ordinance Council — which consisted of Dale Francisco, Grant House and Das Williams — met for several months and brought recommendations to the City Council, the issue was sent back for more discussion. The current committee of House, Frank Hotchkiss and Bendy White were directed to bring the issue back to the council with recommendations in 60 days. It’s expected to come up on the April 27 agenda.

Three dispensaries were permitted — and are now open — before the city passed a suspension ordinance, halting all new applications. All City Council members have agreed to have a citywide cap, with one per pre-determined area of town, but no firm number has been decided.

The city’s other existing dispensaries range from illegal — with owners or employees being arrested by the Santa Barbara Police Department — to nonconforming, which were grandfathered in by being open before the city had an ordinance.

Public comment during the revision process has been consistently adamant, with many of the same individuals attending every meeting on the subject since August.

Concerns are focused on keeping medical marijuana out of the hands of vulnerable populations — including children and recovering addicts — and ramping up security requirements to prevent dispensary-related crimes and minimize effects on the community.

Members of the public also have spoken in support of dispensaries, despite the legal confusion surrounding them, as a way to get safe access to medical marijuana.

The illegal use of medical marijuana — especially among minors or from reselling — has been a big topic of discussion. Though law enforcement officials aren’t always sure if illegally-used marijuana comes from dispensaries, some products — especially edibles — have made it into local schools.

Since the permitted dispensaries are still new, the effects on the community have been based more on opinions than on statistics.

The police department’s general offense reports statistics have crimes broken down by district from March 2009 through February 2010, which include drug crimes but make no mention of whether the marijuana crimes are dispensary-related.

In that year, the reports show 324 incidents involving marijuana, 292 of which were possession of under an ounce. Comparatively, there were 37 incidents involving heroin possession, paraphernalia, selling/furnishing or being under the influence, 98 incidents involving cocaine, 55 involving methamphetamine and 27 involving prescription drugs.

The numbers are higher for alcohol, with 1,001 drunk-in-public incidents and 144 incidents involving minors — 127 of which were for a minor in possession.

There have been several dispensary-related incidents, including arrests and marijuana seizures from employees and owners involved with the illegal Bond Avenue and San Andres dispensaries and the permitted Pacific Coast Collective at 331 N. Milpas St.

In January, investigators determined that a De la Vina Street apartment fire was caused by an illegal marijuana conversion operation, which uses butane to convert the leaf form to concentrated oil.

The Ordinance Committee will meet at noon Tuesday in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 735 Anacapa St.

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

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