Friday, April 20 , 2018, 9:33 am | Fair 59º


Janet Rowse: Proposed Marijuana Ordinance Falls Far Short

The Santa Barbara City Council needs to repeal the ordinance or ban dispensaries altogether

There has been a growing concern in Santa Barbara over the pot shops that have moved to our village by the sea. Some people don’t seem to care about them, yet others are incensed over them. This opinion speaks to why so many of us do care.

We are a family, and most people here know that in Santa Barbara there are not six degrees of separation between us, but one. This makes drug use and addiction very personal. With 10 percent of our population suffering from addiction, that means that we all know someone who has struggled with it or died from it.

Our people care deeply about others to the point that they will give until it hurts. This compassion that we feel is strong, but we do recognize when it is being used against us. We must find a way to separate the cancer and AIDS patients from the recreational users. We must and do care for the truly sick, but not at the price of promoting drug abuse. It can be done, but we must choose wisely. Dispensaries are not only providing safe access to marijuana for qualified patients; they are providing marijuana to recreational users and secondary dealers, all while they are decreasing the perception of harm to our youth at a time when their brains are still developing and more susceptible to damage and addiction.

It is a myth, however many times repeated, that zoning pot shops where they can be seen will enable the city to control the sale of marijuana. This has been proven false and was underscored again just last week when police closed one of the city’s most lucrative pot shops for money laundering and trafficking (Upper State Street storefront). The litany of other unsavory activities creates a list too long for these pages, but have all occurred in recent months. This stands in direct contrast to what the City Council has been telling us — that the dispensary model is controllable and desirable, and that drug sellers will be good neighbors.

We have 25 marijuana-related businesses operating in town. Add to this that home-based collectives that grow and distribute marijuana to qualified patients are legal, according to the state, and the city can’t control them. All any ordinance does is ensure that more drugs and drug-related crime will come to and through Santa Barbara. More police resources will be needed to protect us. Regardless of any ordinance, possessing, cultivating and distributing pot for the purpose of selling is illegal. This ordinance is an attempt to develop rules on how to break standing law.

The proposed ordinance that is being touted as very restrictive doesn’t define what a collective is, nor does it talk about cultivation, regulation or enforcement. It doesn’t mention purity, potency or origin of the products sold, including cookies and candies. For an ordinance that claims to regulate marijuana, it fails. It doesn’t say whether it’s legal to grow 1,000 plants next to a school. It doesn’t say whether it’s legal to convert any home into an indoor grow house. Nor does it say whether pot delivery services are legal or what kind of oversight they might need. However, what it does say is exactly what the dispensary operators want it to say, and they stand behind it because they know that whatever restrictions the ordinance puts in place they can get around.

The ordinance process has been driven by the pot industry, without adherence to standing law or to the wishes of the community at large. Three members of our current council have thus far chosen to ignore the well-being of this city, putting their own political careers ahead of the office they swore to serve. There is no need to supersede the laws of the state as they pertain to personal use and possession of pot as it relates to the critically ill and the certified caregivers. The doctor/patient relationship does not mean a 15-minute meeting in a hotel room for a cash fee. Why are we the only city for a 100-mile radius that can’t recognize this?

Why have Sheriff Bill Brown, Police Chief Cam Sanchez, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara School Districts Superintendent Brian Sarvis, SBCC President Andreea Serban, the entire Fighting Back Steering Committee, Daniel Bryant Youth & Family Treatment Center’s Bob Bryant, Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse President and CEO Penny Jenkins, Santa Barbara Rescue Mission President Rolf Geyling, Santa Barbara neighborhood organizations, parents, teachers, business owners and many more been summarily dismissed by our City Council?

Dispensary owners are pushing for an ordinance — any ordinance — because it recognizes their existence. They know that the will or the means to enforce any ordinance doesn’t exist, even if the manpower were available to do so. There is no real-world mechanism for enforcement, auditing or control of any kind, outside of a bonafide citizen-based complaint. If the eventual goal is total legalization, it needs to be done at the federal level. No city, not even the most special one, can control what our city is attempting to control with a zoning ordinance and a zoning staffer. The time has come to repeal the ordinance or ban dispensaries altogether.

What we are waking up to is the dismal fact that money-driven power politics can and have superseded the sworn duty of our elected officials to preserve their city and protect their constituents.

— Janet Rowse is a veteran parent volunteer in the Santa Barbara School Districts who has been following the Santa Barbara medical marijuana dispensary ordinance closely.

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