San Juan Bautista City Council members on Aug. 16 agreed to move forward with an ordinance to ban recreational marijuana sales, cultivation, and delivery.
“This ban is going to be just provisional that’ll be pulled when the new ordinance is approved and it is a ban on all marijuana facilities including where marijuana products are produced and also prohibits cultivations beyond what is allowed by AUMA (Adult Use of Marijuana Act) and also prohibits deliveries,” said City Attorney Deborah Mall.
The ordinance is set to go to the city's planning commission for environmental review and for a public hearing since it was identified as land use issue.
During public comment, cannabis patient advocate and educator Mandisa Snodey asked the council if the ordinance would include a ban on deliveries, "which means you’re restricting every patient that lives in this town from being able to receive medicine that they are now required to go out of town, even if there were local deliveries,” she said after Mayor Chris Martorana answered yes to her question.
She later questioned why there was a need to put in another ban if the city already has an ordinance banning marijuana businesses and she voiced her concern for patients' rights.
“I have not heard one of you talk about patients' rights or patients' rights to access or the voters of San Benito County, who have expressed their need and their interest. Fifty seven percent approved Prop 64, so if you're representing your constituency, then listen to what they are saying. If they’re saying that they want safe access, then isn't it your duty to represent that?” she asked.
Martorana followed up Snodey’s statements by saying the council had made it clear that the ordinance would just be a “placeholder” while it worked on a more comprehensive ordinance.
Former Councilwoman Joleen Cosio said, “I totally understand banning the sales and cultivation. That’s probably a good idea beyond personal use, but I am having a little bit of trouble with the delivery idea. It seems like if someone was really in need of that marijuana, I’d probably rather have it delivered to their home than have them drive out and get it.”
San Benito County resident Elia Salinas suggested the city regulate deliveries and benefit from the tax revenue.
“It shouldn’t be a surprise to you," she said. "Delivery services are coming to San Juan Bautista, whether you like it or not. If you ban it it’s still going to happen so, I think you should allow it. Take that revenue, whatever that small tax revenue might come to you. Its not going to hurt you and it’s not going to hurt the patients that are using it so if its already coming here then take the regulate it and take the tax benefit."
After the conversation turned to creating an exemption to allow deliveries for tax revenue, Martorana said, “We’re creating an exemption and that’s when we start running into problems where the whole thing is really complicated and waiting until May at the latest, hopefully, just makes sense to me. If we create an exemption here, we've now opened a door that we are all concerned about.”
Resident Rachel Ponce added, “If you do have an ordinance and there’s deliveries being made, you have no way of monitoring or enforcing that to get the tax revenue from it so why have it if you can’t control it.”
Former Hollister Councilman Victor Gomez, of Pinnacle Strategy, also encouraged the council to have take a position on whether it would allow cannabis businesses in the city.
“Having the structure allows you the ability to go back and have the state communicate with you city and say ‘what are you doing currently,'" he said. "If the local jurisdiction does not allow a certain component of cannabis business, then your staff will let the state know and the state will no allow the permit to go through."
The council also finalized and formally approved a cannabis consulting contract with Gomez, who also consults with the city of Hollister and the county of San Benito. The contract is not to exceed $9,000 over a nine-month period —Sept. 1, 2017 through May 31, 2018 — and allows either party to terminate the contract with or without cause within a 30-day period.
During discussion, Councilman Tony Boch said he had met with Gomez a week prior and emphasized how all he wants to do is “protect San Juan.”
“Whether we have dispensaries or manufacturing or growing, we need to protect San Juan.," Boch said. "People talk about the tremendous amount of money, as far as I’m concerned that has nothing to do with it. I don't want to see San Juan damaged in anyway."
Councilman John Freeman agreed that he didn't want to see San Juan Bautista damaged, adding, “If we can discreetly have a manufacturing plant, or a cultivation warehouse, or something and bring in a considerable amount of money, then we can have more police protection so the Valero station doesn't get trashed.”
During the Level One Security report, safety concerns were brought up after the council made the public aware of an act of vandalism that occurred at the Valero gas station that resulted in gas pumps being broken.
Martorana continued the conversation, saying, “We’ve been looking at, for the cannabis question, the cannabis business for quite sometime now. We’ve held a forum. We’ve addressed this at a number of meetings … I think that it is a very complicated question. We don’t have the time as a council and as a staff to adequately address this — the issues that are involved in this.”
He added that staff has spent more than 40 hours looking into the matter.
“I think this is the right way for us to go because I think there is just an awful lot at stake," Martorana said. "There’s a lot happening at the legislative level that we need to be aware of and reactive to it and dealing with those changes in a very timely fashion."
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