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Goleta Council Pushes Marijuana Ordinances Forward to Ban Commercial Growing, Allow Deliveries

Cultivation limits wouldn't apply to the two existing dispensaries in town, according to Tuesday's vote

Hearing the pleas of medical marijuana patients, the Goleta City Council this week supported a cultivation ordinance to ban growing for commercial use and make delivery services get a permit.

Council members will exempt two existing dispensaries from the ban on growing marijuana, but will require them to comply with delivery rules, which would regulate vehicles and drivers delivering dry cannabis in the same way the city regulates taxi services.

A half dozen public speakers turned out for the Tuesday night council meeting, all of them claiming to be patients or representatives of Goleta’s two collectives, and asking the council to allow the dispensaries to grow and deliver marijuana as they have been.

Council members approved moving both ordinances forward for further reading with a 4-0 vote. Mayor Jim Farr, who suffered a stroke in August, said he was abstaining from the votes for personal reasons.

Officials cautioned that both ordinances — especially the one related to delivery — might need to be changed in the future as staff had time to further vet them.

Like other cities, Goleta is scrambling to enact local ordinances by March 1, 2016. Otherwise, the city would give up to the state the right to regulate under provisions of the Medical Marijuana Regulation & Safety Act.

The governor signed the act made up of three new state laws, AB 266, AB 243 and SB 643, on Oct. 9.

Cities see the new laws as setting the stage for legalization of marijuana to be placed on the November 2016 ballot.

Goleta currently prohibits any new medical-marijuana dispensaries from operating inside city limits or from making deliveries, excluding the two existing dispensaries. A third location is under investigation for possibly violating regulations, City Attorney Tim Giles said.

Giles presented ordinances crafted from direction council gave in November, allowing ordinances to bypass the council’s ordinance committee.

Since ordinances take effect 30 days after adoption, council would need to approve them in January to be effective by March 1.

The proposed cultivation ordinance prohibits growing for commercial purposes or in quantities beyond what the state has established for personal use.

Rules wouldn’t apply to cultivation by qualified patients or primary caregivers, and the restrictions are meant to prevent those with previous drug convictions from growing or others from causing a neighborhood nuisance, according to the city.

Those delivering medical marijuana — staff said an online search shows at least two dozen delivery services operate locally — would have to apply for permits like taxicabs, requiring all operations to obtain and pay fees for a license and all vehicles to register with the city, Giles said.

All applicants would go through a police background check. Fees would be determined later, although an annual taxicab operator license costs $100 per cab and an accompanying sticker costs $5 annually per cab.

Giles said fines and penalties would theoretically offset enforcement costs.

Administrative fines range from $100 to $500, and violators could be charged with a criminal infraction or misdemeanor.

A Goleta resident — one of many wearing a T-Shirt proclaiming “I am not a criminal” — said as a disabled veteran, she needed the dispensaries to continue cultivating because she couldn’t abide by the space and plant limitations or find a landlord who would allow her to grow.

“It’s hard enough to get a house with dogs, let alone one that will allow me to get my medicine,” she said.

Council members said they were sympathetic to patients and wanted dispensaries to continue as is minus the delivery component, calling it a public safety issue.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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