The Guadalupe City Council voted Tuesday to ban everything but medicinal deliveries of cannabis to city residents, setting the stage for a wide-ranging moratorium on storefronts, commercial cultivation and other adjacent or associated businesses.
Capping a three-hour meeting, the council came to its unanimous decision after the original urgency ordinance — which banned all recreational and medicinal cannabis activities — failed on a 3-2 vote. The original ordinance failed to garner the four-fifths majority needed to pass after council members Virgina Ponce and Antonio Ramirez cast "no" votes.
"They weren't comfortable making the urgency finding," explained City Attorney Philip Sinco, who said the council reconsidered the vote after they could not testify that medicinal deliveries were a threat to safety or public health.
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"They were certain that they already spoke as a body on the delivery portion, but it's not anywhere to be found ... in the regulations," he said. "Once I had the chance to review the language of the statute, I realized that they were unable to make the finding. That portion was then [removed] from the ordinance that was brought before them."
Had council members not reconsidered the ordinance, city officials would have been required to issue permits and licenses to any recreational cannabis business (from commercial cultivators and storefronts, to warehouses and testing labs) that applied. Sinco cautioned that even if the council were to adopt a moratorium at the later meeting, existing cannabis businesses would be "grandfathered in" and exempt from the ban.
Justin Davis, a medicinal cannabis advocate, spoke to the council before the vote. Citing the potential tax revenue to be gained, Davis encouraged council members to have an open mind before considering a full ban of medicinal products.
"[Medical marijuana] will definitely bring revenue to the town," he said. "We want to be in full compliance; we just want to find a place we can call home. I understand it's considered a Schedule I drug [by the federal government] ... but it's very helpful for some people."
Provisions of the urgency ordinance will immediately go into effect, with the council set to deliberate a regular ordinance permanently prohibiting the plant at a later meeting. Under the new regulations, outdoor cultivation of six plants (which is allowed under California law) and delivery of medicinal products (from dispensaries located outside of city limits) will be permitted within city limits.
Mathew Burciaga covers education in Santa Maria and the surrounding area for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @math_burciaga