At the last City Council meeting the staff submitted a recommendation to change the cannabis-use ordinance. Keep in mind what member Jim Mosby said when approving the use ordinance, that it would “need some tweaking” as time went on. Apparently his comrades took him seriously.
The action the council was asked to take was “To minimize the negative impact commercial cannabis activities may have on residential uses (and underage children who may reside in those areas).” Staff was recommending the ordinance be tweaked to prohibit cannabis dispensaries from being in any mixed-use district, no matter the size. The MU zone allows commercial businesses to be collocated with residences.
You would think responsible adults would want to protect the children in our community. In this case three council members — Jenelle Osborne, Dirk Starbuck and Victor Vega — demonstrated clearly where their loyalties lie, and with Mosby have been clearly partial to the cannabis coalition since the beginning of this debate.
Osborne disagreed with the reasoning for the exclusion of the MU district, saying that since traditional pharmacies are allowed, so should cannabis shops.
Some speakers brought up the point that retail sales, which are allowed in the MU district, was an all-encompassing term that included pharmacies. When this designation was initially considered in the early 1980s and later in the late 1990s, cannabis sales were never envisioned as a permitted business in the city, therefore collocating this type of business with residences was never analyzed.
Ending the debate, Osborne made a motion to continue to allow commercial cannabis activities in the MU zone. It passed 3-2, with Mosby and Mayor Bob Lingl dissenting. It should be noted that Mosby’s safe vote may have been because he only has a parking lot in the MU zone.
During the discussion, council members challenged a staff interpretation that cannabis dispensaries would not be allowed in the Old Town District. Their reasoning was that pharmacies were allowed in there and so should cannabis outlets.
That seemed to them like a clever way to improve downtown, but this topic wasn’t on the agenda, so the depth of that discussion should have waited until a future date. Why the city attorney allowed a council majority to seemingly provide direction to make another change to the ordinance to occur raises questions concerning compliance with the Ralph M. Brown Act public-notification requirements.
Council member Vega, who represents properties in the old town area, was clearly in favor of this change. With a potential financial interest in the outcome, isn’t this a conflict of interest?
So, three council members believe the health and safety of children are of no concern to them, and their commitment to allow cannabis sales in the city supersedes any other public duty they have. So, they “tweaked the ordinance to allow children to be exposed.”
Mayor Lingl has been the only policy maker to consistently consider the morale compass of the city as his primary concern.
Why other council members feel that pandering to an industry whose very existence is a violation of federal law and flirting with the potential for legal action by the U.S. Attorney General’s drug task force is concerning. I remind them that under the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970, cannabis is still an illegal schedule-one drug, and the U.S. Attorney General has indicated the DOJ may prosecute violators.
There is an election in November. It’s past time to start draining the swamp.