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Sunday, January 20 , 2019, 9:57 am | Fair 56º


Planning Commission Supports Ban on Marijuana Dispensaries

Members say they'd favor a citywide cap of two or three at the most — not the proposed five

In the harshest public meeting yet for Santa Barbara’s medical marijuana collective dispensary ordinance, the city’s Planning Commission on Thursday expressed its support of an outright ban.

Its recommendations come just a few days before the issue heads back to the City Council, where the specifics of the ordinance may finally be nailed down after months of discussion.

With the Ordinance Committee and the council consistently working toward allowing storefront collectives instead of banning them, commission members said they would favor a citywide cap of two or three instead of the proposed five — if any.

They had individual concerns with allowed locations and specific language, but all questioned the need for, legality of and city resources necessary to permit the storefronts.

While commissioners — and members of the public who spoke — acknowledged the right to safe access, many questioned the legitimacy of storefront dispensaries.

Most people who attended the meeting applauded stricter recommendations, citing dangers to vulnerable populations and the abuse of Proposition 215 and state Senate Bill 420.

“There’s not one person in this room who doesn’t qualify as a patient,” said Janet Rowse, adding that “control is an illusion” and that enforcement hasn’t caught up with the city’s current restrictions.

Some worried about the impact to patient access with increased restrictions.

One medical marijuana patient, Jameson Merrick, said membership to multiple collectives was necessary in case one’s inventory didn’t include what someone needed. The sticky legal issue of traveling with marijuana — even with a doctor’s recommendation — makes the notion of tri-county membership more reasonable so people could buy by their destination, he said.

To follow state law as far as collectives are concerned, commission members said membership and cultivation should be limited to Santa Barbara County, nonprofit status should be encouraged and, while enforcement would be a big part the process, the city shouldn’t have to take on massive record-keeping and regulatory responsibilities.

The ordinance revisions include annual reviews by city staff and optional short-notice inspections to check up on dispensary finances or other records.

“It sounds like a whole new city office to me,” Commissioner Charmaine Jacobs said after the staff presentation.

Hundreds of staff hours already have been spent during ordinance creation and revision processes, among planning staff, the city attorney’s office and various other staff.

Senior planner Danny Kato, who has been the go-to staff resource for the revision process, has spent countless hours since August, including presenting and answering questions at all of the 18 public meetings since July 2009.

Commissioner Stella Larson said all the work could be for nothing come November, if the recreational use of marijuana is passed by California voters, and the already difficult subject wasn’t helped by state law ambiguities.

“It’s not like other medications,” she said. “You can’t measure the dose and you can grow it at home.”

The issue will be heard at a City Council special meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Kato said. The ordinance revisions need five votes — out of seven — to be adopted.

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

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