Friday, November 24 , 2017, 6:46 am | Fair 48º


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Lompoc Council Decides Not to Limit Number of Commercial Marijuana Dispensaries

City Council approves regulatory ordinance with 4-1 vote and drops provision to cap dispensaries at four

Councilman Victor Vega, right, suggested dropping restrictions on the number of dispensaries allowed in Lompoc. At left is Councilwoman Jenelle Osborne who served with Vega on the ad hoc committee to draft the rules for cannabis activity in Lompoc. Click to view larger
Councilman Victor Vega, right, suggested dropping restrictions on the number of dispensaries allowed in Lompoc. At left is Councilwoman Jenelle Osborne who served with Vega on the ad hoc committee to draft the rules for cannabis activity in Lompoc. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

The Lompoc City Council decided against limiting the number of commercial marijuana dispensaries, choosing instead to let the free market reign.

On Tuesday night, the council took one big step toward authorizing dispensaries and other matters surrounding cannabis use by approving an ordinance in a 4-1 vote, with Mayor Bob Lingl as the lone opponent.

After seeing maps showing limited locations where cannabis companies could operate to avoid being too close to schools, daycare facilities and youth center, Councilman Victor Vega said he favored dropping proposed plans to limit the number of dispensaries to just four. 

“I think we should probably allow the business entity to manage itself as far as that goes,” he said. “Just like any other other business, if there’s too many, somebody’s going to go out of business. Unfortunately, that’s the way it is.”

Scroll down to see a map showing where commercial cannabis operations are allowed in the city.

Before the council tweaked the proposed law to get rid of the dispensary cap, some cannabis advocates criticized the limit.

“It’s Lompoc. There aren’t going to be 30 landlords willing to rent to a cannabis business,” Crystal Reyes said. “There has to be a middle ground, something, somewhere, because this isn’t it.

“I’ve seen it time and time again with not wanting to let Lompoc grow,” she added. “This is the time for Lompoc to set the pace and be the leader in this state, not the follower, and not the last one on board. You’re going to miss a huge opportunity.”

A clause establishing a three-strike law for cannabis business operators who call police three times in a year may prevent people from reporting crimes, Councilman Jim Mosby said. 

“We’re not going to be petty,” Chief Pat Walsh said. “I’m looking at the bigger things, the bigger problems that we could have.”

In talking to law enforcement colleagues in other communities, Walsh said dispensaries have encountered crime from within — employees stealing from the business. 

“You don’t want people to not call because somebody’s violent,” Mosby said. “I don't know how to word it so people aren’t afraid to call you.”

The chief later likened the agency’s approach to policing cannabis operations as similar to how they interact with operators of bars.

For instance, a bar would be held responsible for an underage drinker or fight, but not a burglary, he added.

After the council discussed several aspects of the ordinance regulating cannabis operations, Lingl suggested postponing action. 

“Do we really want to rush this thing through and make some mistakes?” he asked

City Attorney Joe Pannone reminded the council and audience members that introduction and adoption of the ordinance was just one step in the process of regulating cannabis operations.

“Remember the ordinance also calls for the need for a resolution and the resolution is to impose the fees that will be assessed for the application process, as well as other regulations that may be needed to handle the day-to-day things,” Pannone said.

The regulations will return to the council in December, Pannone said. 

He also noted that any planning process won’t be affected by the new cannabis laws. A business seeking to go into an area that requires conditional use permit would still have to get that CUP to operate. 

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.

City of Lompoc Map of Locations for Permitted Commercial Cannabis Activity 

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