Sunday, March 18 , 2018, 10:57 am | Fair 55º


Ron Fink: Lompoc Cannabis Policy; Not Yet

For the second time the Lompoc City Council discussed the implementation of the city’s cannabis policy to try and beat the Jan. 1, 2018, deadline.

When the full council couldn’t figure out what to do, they farmed it out to an ad hoc committee consisting of the city attorney and Council Members Jenelle Osborne and Victor Vega.

The policy the three returned with raised questions.

Resolutions of the City Council contain a section known as Findings of Fact, which must be established before policies can be added to those already in place or change those that already exist.

One questionable “fact” was that the intent of the new policy was “to accommodate the needs of medically-ill persons in need of marijuana for medical purposes.”

The Federal Controlled Substances Act classifies marijuana as a Schedule I Drug, which is defined as a drug or other substance that has a high potential for abuse, that has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and that has not been accepted as safe for use under medical supervision.

And, physicians at Lompoc Valley Medical Center have previously testified before the City Council that they would not recommend cannabis for any of their patients.

So, to state as fact that part of the policy is based on medical needs is factually inaccurate.
The second fact was that the new policy cannabis dispensaries are permitted within the city only where the zoning ordinance allows retail pharmacies.

So, the city is ready to convey the right to operate dispensaries in all commercial areas of the city, including neighborhood convenience centers and retail areas along the H Street, Ocean Avenue and Central Avenue business corridors.

After the Findings of Fact have been established, the policy goes into greater detail.

Although there were concerns with this policy, there also were some positive requirements:

Criminal background checks for operators and employees; extensive record keeping; installation of high tech-video recording systems; product testing; odor controls; and a prohibition of outdoor cultivation for both personal use and commercial operations to name a few.
So, what did the council do? Well, first they talked about it for more than three hours.

A post by the Lompoc Valley Cannabis Coalition prior to the meeting indicated they “will be rejecting proposed Lompoc City Ordinance # 1640(17) regulating cannabis tonight as it is viewed as overbearing and undemocratic.” And, that’s what they did.
Councilman Jim Mosby, echoing the coalition's complaint that the proposed regulation was “overbearing and undemocratic” dutifully said: “I just think there’s overreach.”

Apparently, he hadn’t read any of the state laws enacted since Proposition 64 was passed. All the things the coalition and Mosby are complaining about already are embodied in state law. Perhaps the coalition and Mosby should try to make their argument to state lawmakers.

Another complaint was that the policy would only allow “on-site smoking of cannabis in accordance with state laws;” for those of you who voted for Prop. 64, but didn’t read it and for those who haven’t read the new state laws, you may be in for a surprise.

State law prohibits smoking cannabis or cannabis products in a location where smoking tobacco is prohibited or within 1,000 feet of a school, day care center, or youth center while children are present.

State law currently prohibits smoking in workplaces and enclosed spaces; a cannabis dispensary is both an enclosed place and a workplace.

And, apparently a requirement that pot smokers can’t smoke “without controlling odors emanated from that smoking, which are disturbing to people” aggravated the Cannabis Coalition.

Let’s face it, pot smoke is just as offensive and irritating to many people as tobacco smoke is, and second-hand cannabis smoke is intoxicating.

Another was the limit of four licenses citywide; the council majority still thinks the free market should establish how many licenses can be in town.

State law governing the issuance of licenses stipulates that selling cannabis within 600 feet of a school, day care center, or youth center is prohibited; this will limit the number of locations within the city where licenses can be issued.

The Lompoc City Council has some latitude with this ordinance, but one thing it can’t do is rewrite public laws passed by Sacramento in the wake of the passage of Prop. 64.

Mosby and his merry men need to wake up to the fact that they do not have much say on most of the issue the Cannabis Coalition was complaining about.

Ultimately the council returned the ordinance to staff for revision.

This was probably the right thing to do and leaving it with the city attorney will keep it in the law enforcement realm. In contrast the cities of Solvang, Buellton and Santa Maria have wisely banned cannabis dispensaries.

This places Lompoc in the potential position of being the only jurisdiction in the North County to encourage the sale and distribution of this cannabis; that’s a discouraging thought to folks who have tried to raise the image of Lompoc above that of the “armpit of the county."

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry and has been active with Lompoc municipal government commissions and committee since 1992, including 12 years on the Lompoc Planning Commission. He is also a voting member of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. Contact him at [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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