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Local News

Committee Orders Staff to Prepare New Draft of Marijuana Ordinance

Members continue to navigate legal ground in finalizing recommendations for the City Council


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

The Santa Barbara Ordinance Committee will not meet its deadline to bring the medical-marijuana ordinance back to the City Council, but its three members reached consensus Tuesday on directing staff to once again prepare a draft of the proposal.

To ensure that storefronts operate as collective dispensaries and comply with state law, committee members Frank Hotchkiss, Grant House and Bendy White recommended that all marijuana be cultivated within the Tri-Counties by collective members. But they also said collective members should be residents of Santa Barbara County, which could prove contradictory.

City officials propose mandating that cultivation, membership and financial records be readily available for inspection in order to enforce the collective model.

Allowing cultivation to occur in the Tri-County area for collective dispensaries doesn’t mean the city is implying that the practice is legal, city attorney Steve Wiley said Tuesday. Under state law, someone can grow marijuana as a primary caregiver or qualified patient anywhere, and growing outside of state law is illegal no matter what Santa Barbara’s ordinance allows.

“We’re not allowing anything not already allowed by state law, and we’re not prohibiting anything not already prohibited by state law,” Wiley said.

Armando Martel, the Santa Barbara Police Department’s representative to attend the committee meetings, said law enforcement would prefer broader access to the storefronts and records without a warrant, in case of civil complaints or annual inspections.

White noted “tension” between what the police department proposed and what Wiley suggested was safe legal ground.

Wiley suggested keeping the requirement of a search or inspection warrant — which need probable cause to be issued — since membership medical records have a “legitimate confidentiality concern.” Allowing access to the records, especially patients’ medical records, was contested by House and several members of the public, citing confidentiality issues.

In the final motion to staff, the committee members recommended a citywide cap of five, allowing consumable produces — or “edibles” — to be distributed, and including already agreed upon requirements for allowable locations, discussed at length in previous meetings.

It’s likely that the five spots are already as good as filled. There are three open, operating dispensaries — two on North Milpas Street and one on Olive Street — and two that may be considered legal nonconforming. If the Santa Barbara Patients Group can relocate and open under its application, and The Compassion Collective at 2915 De la Vina St. is deemed legal, the spots would be filled.

While the two on Milpas are too close to each other under the current ordinance, they are allowed to stay open until they go out of business or change ownership, as they were permitted under the previous ordinance.

Several existing dispensaries are still considered illegal or in dispute, which has factored into community concerns over enforcement of the new regulations.

“We don’t believe you have any control over them at all,” Santa Barbara resident Janet Rowse said at Tuesday’s meeting.

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

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