By Theresa-Marie Wilson
The Arroyo Grande City Council voted 3-1 in favor of a ban on the cultivation and dispensing of medical marijuana within city limits. Councilmember Tim Brown dissented and Mayor Jim Hill was absent.
“As it was said publicly, prohibition doesn’t work, and this is not going to work,” Brown said. “This is going to drive all this stuff underground. I don’t think it is going to do what’s intended… It boggles my mind that we think somehow prohibition is going to make it easier on enforcement or anything else.”
Councilmember Jim Guthrie agreed with Brown’s assessment that following current court cases and public opinion, the issue is likely to change within a year. He did, however come out in favor of prohibition.
“I really believe that a year from now things are going to be completely different,” he said. “I am in favor of prohibition. I do think it makes enforcement significantly easier even if it is underground. When we discover it, when it gets reported, it will be much easier for us to deal with it. I personally have difficulty with the idea of allowing cultivation. It is actually a much bigger issue.”
Public comments were in favor of allowing medical use of marijuana.
Nutritionist Kay Kyle who was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer is a medical marijuana patient.
“Even with chemotherapy I was given 18 months to two years to live, so I decided to go another route,” she said. “I had researched and researched and knew that I was going to do medical marijuana. Medical marijuana has stopped my cancer from spreading, period, and started shrinking the tumors. Somewhere along the way something happened and my cancer changed to HER2+. HER2+ is treatable.”
Others spoke against a general ban in favor of restrictions and redefined regulations.
Arroyo Grande resident Judith Bernstein said she believes that changes should be made addressing the ease with which people can obtain medical marijuana, but that doesn’t outweigh the needs it serves.
“I am very concerned that in trying to correct some problems, we are doing a great disservice to people who are sick or suffering from chronic conditions,” she said.
The ordinance was revised to remove the misdemeanor penalty provisions in favor of nuisance abatement procedures.
“I don’t believe it would change our enforcement,” said Arroyo Grande Police Chief Steve Annibali. “We would handle it as we would any other code enforcement matter. I believe we would still have much success with the civil penalties that are outlined in the ordinance.”
As part of the ordinance, a landlord would be held accountable if such cultivation occurred on their property. Enforcement of the ordinance would be on a complaint basis through Neighborhood Services and the police department.
The adoption of the ordinance does not prohibit the city from making modifications at a later date should any legislation changes come about.
As of 2003, California allows issuing identification cards for qualified patients and allowing patients and their primary caregivers to collectively or cooperatively cultivates medical marijuana. Law does not regulate or restrict local zoning requirements for medical marijuana dispensaries. However, uncertainty remained as federal law continued to categorize marijuana as a controlled substance.
Time is of the essence on the issue. On October 9 of 2015, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Medical Marijuana Regulation & Safety Act, a comprehensive package of bills to establish a regulatory structure for medical marijuana. Cities across the state are scrambling to get policy on the books before the legislation comes down the pipeline.
Individual municipalities would continue to control local medical marijuana legislation, but must have established laws related to cultivation in place by Mar. 1.
If a city fails to establish land use regulations or ordinances regulating or prohibiting the cultivation of marijuana the State will become the sole licensing authority.
The Grover Beach and Pismo Beach city councils recently approved similar bans.