Four members of the Lompoc City Council, in an unheard-of display of hubris and striking indifference to public safety and health, are ready to adopt a public policy that is specifically designed to benefit the cannabis industry.

No other community in North County permits commercial cannabis operations within its borders, so the industry chose a City Council in North County with the worst record of supporting code enforcement and most adversarial with their city staff as their target of opportunity to expand their sales footprint.

From the council dais, members Jim Mosby, Jenelle Osborne, Dirk Starbuck and Victor Vega instructed the city attorney on how to craft details of the policy. No other political entity in the state has taken this approach, and it is revealing about the attitude of this council toward the citizens they are supposed to be serving.

Trying to write public policy during an open meeting by people who have no experience at crafting public policy never produces satisfactory results and usually omits important technical considerations, as this policy does.

They ignored the testimony of medical professionals, their police chief, who has extensive experience in a state/city that permits cannabis activities, the Planning Division and totally circumvented the normal policy-making process.

How the city will find the funds necessary to implement this policy is questionable. The council majority thinks sales taxes generated from cannabis sales will do the trick, but staff input indicates otherwise.

From the Aug. 1 staff report: “It is uncertain what taxes will be generated by commercial marijuana operations. It is also unclear what additional public safety services will be needed to monitor those operations.”

Fitch Ratings recently reported, “High tax rates raise prices in legal markets, reinforcing the price advantage of black markets. California’s black markets for cannabis were well-established long before … voters legalized cannabis in November 2016 and are expected to dominate post-legalization production.”

There are numerous key provisions missing from this policy. It does not prohibit personal outdoor growing, provide separation of commercial cannabis businesses, or ban cannabis consumption at the sales point to name a few.

There appear to be no enforceable provisions to protect the public from the intoxicating by-products of either personal or commercial operations. The odor-control provision in this policy states, “Control odors, in such a way as to not materially disrupt the ability of any reasonable person to enjoy the reasonable use of that person’s residence …”

This statement is too subjective. How do you define “materially disrupt”? While cannabis smokers, who consider themselves “sensible people,” may not consider it materially disruptive, their neighbor next door, who is equally sensible, might complain if odors and/or intoxicating second-hand smoke migrated onto their property or into their apartment. It gives police and code enforcement officers insufficient information to require compliance.

Most disturbing is the fact that houses of worship, where hundreds of children regularly gather, video arcades and youth sports venues are not protected by exclusion zones as required by state law. Neither are court-directed drug/alcohol treatment centers.

This is, without a doubt, the most poorly thought-out public policy I have ever been exposed to, and the cannabis industry has council members Jim Mosby, Jenelle Osborne, Dirk Starbuck and Victor Vega to thank for the gift they are about to receive.

The rest of us can either accept the irresponsibility of these four, or we can replace them with citizens who are more concerned with the health and safety of their constituents.

Ron Fink is a local activist and can be reached at: rfink@impulse.net.

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