Last week San Bernardino city officials decided to place a 45-day moratorium on marijuana usage as they anticipate a court decision on the validity of Measure O.
By passing an emergency ordinance, the City Council and staff have provided themselves with more time to implement citywide policy that takes into account the measure and look into recommendations made by the Citizens Advisory Committee on Marijuana.
Despite some community members expressing pleasure with the decision, a large number of residents believe city officials are being “negligent” in the handling of cannabis regulation.
“We came here because we believe in what we are talking about,” said Robert Porter. “We think cannabis can help this community and you should listen to us.”
Prop. 64, passed by voters statewide on Nov. 8, 2016, legalized marijuana across California. The Adult Use of Marijuana Act allows residents over 21-years-old to recreationally use, possess, and transport up to one ounce of Marijuana. In addition the law allows cities to place restrictions on outdoor cultivation, ban marijuana-related businesses, and regulate indoor cultivation.
Residents also voted in favor of Measure O in last year’s election, but now the ordinance faces the risk of being supplanted due to ongoing lawsuits. The plaintiffs in the case–about a dozen marijuana dispensaries currently operating in the city–argue the ordinance limits the amount of parcels marijuana businesses could operate and those parcels are controlled or owned by proponents of the measure.
Back in September the City Council authorized the creation of a nine-member Committee on Marijuana to evaluate and propose options in establish regulations that had the public’s health and safety in mind. The Commission met five times–coming up with several recommendations for the City Council to approve. They include: restricting the size of outdoor plants, prohibiting public outdoor use, and implementing a 3-percent gross receipts tax from businesses.
Placing a moratorium on marijuana activities has been done by other municipalities across the state to provide them more time to deliberate on issues and develop appropriate laws, explained Community Development Director. Statewide law on marijuana activities requires for cities to contact the California Bureau of Cannabis Control regarding any ordinance or regulation related to commercial cannabis activity by Jan. 1, 2018.
“Even if the City Council were to adopt all the recommendations of the [Citizens Advisory Committee], there just isn’t enough time to view all the necessary [requirements],” said Persico. “This is the driving reason why the City Council should adopt an Interim Urgency Ordinance.”
The Chairman of the Citizens Advisory Committee, Damon Alexander, admitted they were charged with an overwhelming task with very little time, but believes they did an excellent job.
Meanwhile, marijuana advocates spoke in opposition of the city’s decision–claiming that further stringent regulation will hurt the growing cultural and economic development around the plant.
“[Cannabis] helps strengthen the community,” said Marijuana advocate Bill Ricks. “We help provide outreach to support groups and children. If you limit these events, the money will stop.”
Others spoke of their frustration with the lack of regulations for marijuana operations.
“We’ve talked about the great things that marijuana has done for the city,” said Frank Forze, a 49-year resident of the city. “Nobody said what happens when you have all these marijuana places. This city must realize that there is a cost.”
Councilman Henry Nickel suggested extending the term of Citizens Advisory Committee to have appropriate time to conduct good business
“You can’t come up with a solution in four to five weeks,” Nickel said. “I just ask that you continue to do the good work you’re doing.”