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Thursday, December 13 , 2018, 2:50 pm | Fair 71º


City of Santa Barbara Grants Permit to One Marijuana Dispensary, Denies Another

The Santa Barbara Patients Group receives clearance, but the Compassion Center is rejected over security and legal concerns

One more medical marijuana storefront dispensary received approval for a permit Wednesday from the city of Santa Barbara, clearing the way for Heather Poet’s Santa Barbara Patients Group to move from its Upper State Street location to 16 S. La Cumbre.

Poet and Patrick Fourmy, owner of the Compassion Center, 2915 De la Vina St., have the oldest dispensaries in the city. Both have been long involved in efforts to decriminalize medical marijuana within the city. Fourmy’s permit was denied Wednesday over security and legal concerns.

Despite the fact that two existing, permitted dispensaries are suing the city to remain open, senior planner Danny Kato said the outcome of the lawsuits won’t influence permit applications.

“The city attorney’s opinion is that if the two that are supposed to close by Jan. 29 are allowed to remain, he doesn’t consider them to be permitted under the current ordinance, and don’t count toward the three,” Kato said.

The Pacific Coast Collective and The Green Well, both on North Milpas Street, and The Green Light on Olive Street are all permitted under the city’s previous ordinance. The Green Well sued the city and was granted a preliminary injunction against closing, meaning it can stay open until it receives due process through the court system, and Green Light is pursuing similar actions. That means the total number of dispensaries is above the cap of three and could remain that way indefinitely if both groups win their cases.

Staff hearing officer Susan Reardon reviewed Poet’s security plans and said the organization’s 10 years of complaint-free experience showed a reliable history of operations.

There was no opposition to its move to the Five Points Shopping Center area, and doctors and the current landlord spoke favorably of the establishment.

Poet said the site will continue to sell raw cannabis, concentrates, plants for growing, edibles, tinctures (a liquid form of cannabis), books and other herbal remedies that are “nothing that’s even close to being on the drug schedules.”

She also said the Santa Barbara Patients Group will continue to comply with specific membership rules such as limiting patients to one collective, requiring a 24-hour waiting period to check recommendations and not allowing doctors on site to issue recommendations.

With the approval, Poet can get started on the building permit needed for renovations. Any member of the public may appeal the decision by Jan. 6, in which case it would be heard before the Planning Commission.

Also heard on Wednesday was Fourmy’s application for a permit for his Compassion Center, which was denied by Reardon.

She said the biggest issues are not the operations of the facility, which are generally considered acceptable, but a recent burglary and the city attorney’s allegation that it closed for more than 30 days — a deal-breaker for any dispensary to be considered nonconforming rather than illegal.

Fourmy and his landlord are being sued by the city — after receiving several cease and desist letters — because of his inability to prove that it stayed open the entire 11 years or so that it has existed. He asked for a continuance to work on getting vendor receipts, patient testimonies and other evidence, but Kato suggested denying the application given the amount of time that already had passed.

Security was the other main concern. Last month, someone broke into Fourmy’s public storage facility, located off-site and had a padlock on it, and stole 50 pounds of marijuana, associate planner Dan Gullett said. In 2007, there was a break-in and burglary at the dispensary itself.

Planning staff said they were concerned about possible negligence and recommended denying the application.

Santa Barbara police Capt. Armando Martel also expressed concerns with the existing security measures, saying the windows and doors were the most vulnerable points. Under the new rules, all wares would have to be stored on-site.

“There have been a lot of people affected by their mere presence,” he said of the dispensary.

Fourmy defended his establishment adamantly, pointing out that he was glad to incorporate break sensors on the windows, and that increased security measures were implemented after the burglaries.

He said mixed messages from city staff and law enforcement have frustrated him for years, and the 30-day period in question occurred when the District Attorney’s Office was working with federal agencies to crack down hard on dispensaries. He and several of his patients said the dispensary remained open, though they didn’t necessarily use the storefront.

Fourmy can — and he said he will — appeal the decision to the Planning Commission. He said his court case with the city is scheduled for arbitration in February.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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