weed

PALMDALE — The City Council effectively reaffirmed its existing ban on commercial marijuana businesses Tuesday night by accepting the report of its Ad Hoc Cannabis Committee recommending the ban continue, but put off a decision to bring a city ordinance in line with state regulations to allow marijuana deliveries into the city.

The committee, established by the City Council in July 2017 in response to the passage of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, recommended continuing the ban.

The act, which was ap­proved by voters as Prop­o­si­tion 64 in No­vem­ber 2016, went into effect Jan. 1, 2018. The law is intended to protect and expand upon med­ical marijuana access in the state, and legalize and control nonmedical adult cultivation, use and sales.

The law allows people to grow marijuana for their own use, but authorizes cities and counties to ban bus­i­nesses selling or producing mar­i­jua­na and related products and allows them to impose regulations on indiv­iduals growing mar­i­juana.

The committee consisted of Mayor Steve Hofbauer and Councilwoman Laura Bet­tencourt, plan­ning com­mis­sioners Bart Avery and Stacia Nemeth and com­mu­nity members Mat­thew Petri, Ken Hart, Jo­seph Parisio, Adam Mur­ren, Sam Campanelli and Diane Carlton.

The committee made its recommendation after four public meetings. The first three meetings were educational, with consultants from HdL Com­panies providing in­for­mation on the cannabis in­dustry, regulations and econ­omic factors. The fourth meeting involved dis­cus­sion and formulation of the recommendation to the Council.

The recommendation, how­ever, was not unan­im­ous. Six of the eight mem­bers present at the final meet­ing said they favored the ban, while two — Mur­ren and Campanelli — fa­vored pursuing a course of allowing and regulating at least some aspects of the industry, but with a strin­gent application proc­ess.

Among the issues cited by committee members as reas­ons for continuing the ban were the fact that mar­i­juana is still con­sid­ered il­le­gal under federal law, con­cerns regarding the cost to the city to add staff to de­vel­op the licensing and en­force­ment programs, con­cerns regarding the im­pact to local federal con­tractors, the need for more in­for­mation from law en­force­ment and concerns that other cities that have al­lowed the industry are not meeting their revenue projections.

“It seems that the concerns of the committee are on point,” Councilman Richard Loa said. “I think the recommendation to continue the ban is appropriate.”

The fact that state law “has not been fully developed” regarding driving under the influence of marijuana presents a public safety issue, he said.

One resident cautioned that continuing the ban will encourage a black market in marijuana sales, with the city missing out on any sales tax revenues.

Hofbauer specifically cited the availability of  services from outside the city as a justification for continuing the ban, as those who want it still have a means of obtaining it locally.

“Right now, it seems like the need is being met,” he said.

However, in the next item on the agenda, the Council decided to put off making changes to the city’s ordinance to allow for deliveries, bringing it in line with the current state regulations.

Recently, the state Bureau of Cannabis Control set regulations for the industry that allows for delivery, even in those areas that ban marijuana businesses.

The regulations are being challenged by cities around the state, arguing they take away local control in the matter and that the bureau exceeded its authority, Assistant City Attorney Noel Doran said in presenting the proposed ordinance that would allow for deliveries into the city by licensed marijuana retailers.

A court challenge to the regulations has begun through the League of California Cities, and legislation was introduced in the state Assembly Feb. 22 that would allow cities to ban or regulate deliveries, Doran said.

Loa requested the Council hold off on taking action in the matter until the court challenge to the regulations and the proposed legislation have run their course.

“My sense is we should wait on this until this begins to clear up,” he said. “I think it would be premature to be adopting an ordinance at this point.”

Bettencourt questioned what, if any, penalties the city would face by not making changes to match state regulations.

“This could actually be in litigation for years, and do we want to be out of compliance with the state regulations for that amount of time?” she said.

Doran said any citation issued for violating the city’s ban could be challenged and potentially overturned in litigation. He was not aware of any citation issued to a licensed retailer for making deliveries in Palmdale at this time.

However, he also said he believes the court challenge to the regulations will be successful.

Ultimately, the Council agreed to table the proposal on a 4-0 vote, with Councilman Juan Carrillo absent.

To share your opinion on this article or any other article, write a letter to the editor and email it to editor@avpress.com or mail it to Letters to Editor, PO Box 4050, Palmdale CA 93590-4050.

agatlin@avpress.com

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