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Medical-Marijuana Dispensary at Paseo Chapala Wins Conditional Approval

The city's staff hearing officer requires The Farmacy to hire an additional guard or put in security cameras, among other conditions

A meeting with Santa Barbara’s staff hearing officer Wednesday was filled with familiar faces from recent Ordinance Committee review gatherings as The Farmacy, a controversial medical-marijuana dispensary that would reside in commercial space on the first floor of Paseo Chapala, received approval — with a few conditions.

Staff hearing officer Susan Reardon, concerned with the security of the parking garage, required The Farmacy to either hire an additional guard for the garage or put in security cameras.

“I couldn’t support the project without additional surveillance in the garage unless the police department says it’s not necessary,” she said.

The resident and office association of Paseo Chapala owns the common area, which includes the garage, according to association president John Campanella. Residents have refused cameras in the garage area so far, he said, and could have the final say if cameras are required to have homeowner approval.

The choice between cameras and a guard would be left to the police, Reardon said.

Other conditions included removing the tables and chairs in the plans, increasing the packaging on edible products such as pastries and making the dispensary staff meet with residents to discuss concerns after opening.

The Farmacy’s plans include a retail area near the entrance for all of the noncannabis herbal medicines. The dispensary area will be separated from retail by a verification desk, applicant JoAnna LaForce said.

Patients will be limited to one visit a day and one ounce of dry marijuana, or the equivalent in edibles or other products, she said.

Residents of Paseo Chapala spoke against the proposed dispensary during Wednesday’s meeting.

There was no ordinance when the building was built in 2007, and people weren’t aware that dispensaries were a possible business option for the commercial property before investing, they said.

Santa Barbara School District administrator Bud Andrews said local schools are concerned not with LaForce’s business but with the location. Many school-age children gather at the Paseo Nuevo Mall across the street, he said.

“I’m hoping that the public’s input into the committee results in modifications that are not as impactful to our students,” he said after the decision.

Edible products have posed a particular problem for school administrators since they aren’t as straightforward or easy to identify as smoking products, he said. “You can be eating a cookie in front of me and I don’t know what’s in it,” he said.

Supporters said the The Farmacy is a needed source of alternative medicine and meets all ordinance requirements.

“It’s a first-class operation,” Paseo Chapala landlord Ray Mahboob said.

James Lee and Nathaniel Reinke, owners of the dispensary at 500 N. Milpas St., said they look forward to The Farmacy joining the Santa Barbara dispensary ranks.

“It’s good to see better ones as we phase out the illegal and nonconforming,” Lee said.

The ordinance is under review, but no moratorium has been passed.

“The reality of the situation is, I’m charged with reviewing applications under the existing ordinance, even though it’s in review,” Reardon said.

“Even though this is not what was envisioned by the city at the time, it meets the intent,” senior planner Danny Kato said of the open retail model.

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

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