Chronic City: Dispensary Ban -- Hey, Goleta, Nice Job Helping Patients!

The Goleta City Council has unanimously passed a "temporary" ban on medical Marijuana dispensaries -- while still claiming the city is "voicing support" for medical Marijuana patients.

The Santa Barbara Independent reports that the council voted 5-0 in support of an ordinance banning dispensaries within city limits, pointing to "the need to examine the option of allowing and regulating dispensaries in more detail." Members of the council expressed interest in developing regulations under which dispensaries could operate, according to the Santa Ynez Valley Journal, but felt the ban should be in place in the meantime.

If there is a need to "examine regulating dispensaries" in Goleta, just north of Santa Barbara, then one can't help asking why the council waited until the last two months of an already-imposed moratorium imposed two years ago. Councilwoman Margaret Connell says there isn't enough time now to do a good job of developing dispensary regulations before the moratorium expires on Aug. 30. So, what has the council been doing for the past 22 months?

Grassroots Research collective founder Mark Russell said the council's decision puts patients at a disadvantage, as they'll have to pay higher prices in Santa Barbara, or even drive all the way to Los Angeles or Santa Cruz. (One should note that Russell has a horse in this race -- his operation is housed in a private Goleta residence).

Mayor Roger Aceves said pot dispensaries shouldn't be operated out of houses, and should instead be in commercial locations. The mayor noted that because of the current conflict with federal law, the possibility of federal raids on residential properties could mean a safety liability for the surrounding community. However, Attorney General Eric Holder has said federal raids would end on dispensaries which operate in compliance with state law.

Councilman Michael Bennett said he was skeptical of a document produced by city staff claiming that medical Marijuana dispensaries "attract crime." "If we were to prohibit businesses that attract crime, we could go on a rampage," he said, rightly noting that stores selling liquor and guns are more risky.

The Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department, contracted by Goleta for law enforcement, took a -- you guessed it! -- staunch anti-pot stance. Sergeant Kevin Huddle claimed regulation of dispensaries "is difficult from a Sheriff's Department perspective because it's illegal by federal law." That might hold some water, if Huddle were a federal agent. Since he instead works for the state of California, we suggest he quit whining and do his job.

Huddle also said that "in his experience," dispensaries attract criminals who can steal cash and Marijuana. Wait, what? Criminals are breaking into a legitimate, lawful business, and rather than, say, doing your job and stopping them, you are advocating closing the businesses rather than stopping the criminals?

Most councilmembers were skeptical of Huddle's arguments, according to the Independent. "I have not heard a compelling argument about crime or other negative impacts," said Councilman Eric Onnen.

"This law was passed by the people of the state of California," said Councilman Michael Bennett, according to the Daily Sound. "I am not going to stand in the way of the people's vote. Whether I like it or don't like it is immaterial."

"[Staff] never had any intentions of regulating," pot advocate Russell said. "They waited until the last minute to put the city council in a position where time was an issue, and it's just not fair."

Currently in Santa Barbara County, only the city of Santa Barbara and unincorporated areas allow medical Marijuana dispensaries.Carpinteria and Solvang prohibit them, while Lompoc and Santa Maria have moratoria in place, according to the Santa Barbara & Goleta Noozhawk.

With the ban now in place, the issue will reappear on the council's agenda on June 16.

Photo   |   Lavocado

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