Council extends ordinance to ban marijuana dispensaries

The Claremont city council approved an ordinance extending its ban on commercial marijuana dispensaries in the city, but may revisit the issue in the future.

The two ordinances—an emergency ordinance effective immediately and a regular ordinance, extends the current ban on commercial dispensaries within city limits that was set to expire. The original ban, passed in 2016, was in anticipation of Proposition 64, which legalized recreational use of marijuana in California.

Assistant City Manager Colin Tudor told the council that the extension was in response to the slower than anticipated rollout of regulations from the state.

“At this point staff does not feel that there are sufficient lessons learned or best practices in order to bring a regulatory scheme to the council,” Mr. Tudor said.

While the new ordinances extend the status quo in Claremont, the city council can bring parts of the ordinance back for further discussion down the road, Mr. Tudor said.

The first ordinance, passed in October 2016, amended existing codes to ban commercial dispensaries opening within the city before Prop 64 eventually passed that November. At the time, Claremont was concerned that illegal dispensaries could open up within the city, and took a “wait and see” approach to see how the new regulations would work in cities without similar bans.

Mr. Tudor told the council that part of the reason the ban needed to be extended was that regulations from the state were handed down only a few months ago—not enough time to propose any regulatory framework within the city. There are also concerns about a legitimate marijuana market not growing as well as initially thought, due to a high tax rate.

“We’re just not at that point to be able to say, here’s what works, here’s what makes sense,” Mr. Tudor said.

During public comment, Sam and Nicole Lanni of Feeling Groovy Wellness urged the city council to take a more open-minded approach to recreational sales of marijuana in the city.

Mr. Lanni noted that marijuana sold at legitimate dispensaries would be much safer than weed bought through the black market, which could be laced with harder drugs such as heroin or meth.

“I have a son who is 20. I’m sure he’s going to start smoking cannabis at some point,” Mr. Lanni said. “I would rather him go into a store to buy some cannabis than to go to his dealer, who has meth, coke, heroin…I would much rather him go to a store that’s regulated, that’s tested all its products in there.”

Ms. Lanni echoed her husband’s statements and said that marijuana has helped cancer patients cope with their disease, including a 31-year retired police officer who went to her business for help dealing with stage-four cancer.

“When I read this ordinance, and when I’ve looked at it, I think you guys are missing a big piece of this,” she said. “I think this is disservicing so many people, especially in this community.”

Most of the council was on board with extending the ban. Mayor Pro Tem Larry Schroeder said that due to the confusion at the state level, it wouldn’t be the right time. If the city relaxes restrictions, he said, one aspect to figure out would be zoning—or, where to put a legal dispensary in Claremont.

“I can’t picture in my own mind a dispensary in the Village,” he said. “It just isn’t in that character.”

Councilmember Jennifer Stark noted that, “It isn’t prudent to put ourselves in a position before we have the right structure.”

Councilmember Jed Leano, however, refused to vote yes on a ban ordinance unless the city looks into four parts of legalizing recreational marijuana sales—What is the need in Claremont, what are the revenue opportunities, what are the concerns and how the city could mitigate those concerns.

He noted that on WeedMaps.com, an online database of dispensaries in a given area, there are roughly 30-40 delivery drivers bringing weed to Claremonters at any given time. Delivery services from dispensaries outside of Claremont are currently legal.

“To suggest that we won’t even listen to one of the revenue opportunities for that, to me that’s just not acceptable,” Mr. Leano said. “We need to at least look into what that can be.”

Ms. Stark brought up the idea of placing a study on the possibility of allowing recreational dispensaries among the council’s priorities list. City Manager Tara Schultz said it could be done, but preferred it be placed after the current fiscal year, such as this fall, due to the already high workload of city staff.

“That would give us some time to get things done and it at least gives us the opportunity to present some ideas,” she said.

With that guarantee in place, the council approved both the emergency ordinance and the regular ordinance unanimously.

The next city council meeting will take place on February 26.

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

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