Tuesday, September 25 , 2018, 8:14 am | Fog/Mist 60º


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Lompoc Council OKs Cannabis Ordinance Amid Threats of Referendum, Recall

Faith community asks that churches be included in buffer zone for cannabis businesses

Pastor Bernie Federmann from the Lompoc Foursquare Church asks the Lompoc City Council to include churches in areas excluded from having cannbis companies operating nearby.
Pastor Bernie Federmann from the Lompoc Foursquare Church asks the Lompoc City Council to include churches in areas excluded from having cannbis companies operating nearby. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

The Lompoc City Council approved a cannabis ordinance Tuesday despite warnings from Mayor Bob Lingl that people were poised to launch a referendum to stall and ultimately stop the process.  

In response, a leader of a Lompoc cannabis coalition promised to launch a recall effort against Lingl.

The 3-1 vote, with Lingl as the lone opponent, came after several members of the faith community urged that the law include a no-cannabis-business buffer around churches, much like the one already in place for schools and youth centers.

Councilman Dirk Starbuck was absent from Tuesday night’s meeting.

The council's decision to approve the second reading of the cannabis ordinance on Tuesday came after months of debate about the rules for allowing marijuana dispensaries and other operations to operate in the city.

“This is a social experiment that we are willing to try, but realize that that’s what it is,” Councilwoman Jenelle Osborne said.

The controversial topic has led people to call Osborne “the weed queen” and “some not so nice things,” she said.

“But I believe this is the way forward for our community,” she added.

Councilman Jim Mosby pointed out the section in the ordinance that says the council could modify, rescind, amend or repeal any part of law at any time.

“If we don’t regulate it you’re turning it back to the shadows and alleys,” Mosby said. 

Lompoc Mayor Bob Lingl voted against the cannabis ordinance Tuesday and warns that a group will launch a petition to kill the law next November. In response, a member of a cannabis coalition promised to launch a recall effort against Lingl. Click to view larger
Lompoc Mayor Bob Lingl voted against the cannabis ordinance Tuesday and warns that a group will launch a petition to kill the law next November. In response, a member of a cannabis coalition promised to launch a recall effort against Lingl.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

He noted maps showing areas excluded from allowing cannabis businesses, which cover a large portion of the city and leave few sites available for the new businesses.

The council previously declined to limit the number of marijuana dispensaries in the city.

“Even though we said the words free market up here, that doesn't mean it’s going to be on every corner, every block,” Mosby said. “It is very, very restricted.”

Members of the Lompoc Foursquare Church made an 11th-hour plea that areas around churches be included in the buffer zones, noting they frequently host youth activities. 

“We respectfully request that you add churches of all denominations, not just ours, and all religious faiths, not just ours, into the exclusion zone maps, and treat us all as you would a youth center,” Pastor Bernie Federmann said. 

The council majority did not change the ordinance, and Osborne said the last-minute request failed to include how the city should define a church for possible exclusion areas. 

“The ordinance is the beginning of this process. You have to have the framework and the ordinance first to move forward to those next sections,” Osborne said. "So stay engaged. Stay with this conversation."

While 57 percent of Lompoc voters approved Proposition 64, the state initiative legalizing recreational marijuana, Lingl noted that 43 percent rejected it, and said those who voted against legalizing marijuana should be considered too.

He added many of those Lompoc residents who voted for Proposition 64 sought to decriminalize marijuana, allow personal use and to make medical marijuana more widely available. 

“They did not vote to have dispensaries scattered throughout the community,” Lingl said. “They did not vote for the city to allow growing and cultivation and retail sales of marijuana.” 

Lingl said that, if the ordinance was approved, a group of people were prepared to start a referendum effort for the November 2018 ballot to stop cannabis laws. 

Ten percent of registered voters’ signatures gathered within 30 days are needed on petitions for inclusion on the ballot, Lingl said. 

If enough signatures are gathered for a petition, the law would be in limbo until after voters cast their ballots next fall on the ordinance, Lingl added. 

At the end of Tuesday night's meeting, Joe A. Garcia, a leader of the cannabis coalition, said he planned to form an exploratory committee to recall the mayor, adding he holds 17,000 e-mails he obtained after a California Public Records Act request.

"I believe these emails are going to show that you're not quite the person that you have presented yourself to be in this community," Garcia said. "And I'm going to actively work to make sure you're no longer our mayor."

With the ordinance passed, city staff will begin crafting the implementation plan for the new rules and proposed fees, City Attorney Joe Pannone said.

Next year, Pannone said, staff would present a ballot measure for proposed taxes on different cannabis uses with an eye toward generating revenue for the city while not charging a rate so high it harbors the black market.

That ballot measure would appear on the November 2018 ballot.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully 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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