Thursday, May 20, 2010

City Council Agrees to Limit Number of Marijuana Dispensaries

The Santa Barbara City Council approved revisions to its existing
medical marijuana ordinance at their Tuesday meeting, a decision that
would cap the number of medical marijuana dispensaries within city
limits to only five.

At the meeting, members of the SB Ordinance Committee presented their
recommended edits to the city's current medical marijuana ordinance,
which enforces a moratorium on opening new dispensaries within the city.
The revised ordinance — passed by the council in a 5-2 vote —
included a requirement that Santa Barbara dispensaries only sell their
bud to county residents possessing medical marijuana cards. Should the
revised ordinance be passed in a final vote when it is revisited by the
council on June 1, it will end a year of debate about area cannabis

City of Santa Barbara Senior Planner Danny Kato said the recommendations
that were adopted came about as a response to growing community concern
over the possibility that locals are abusing current marijuana laws.

"Basically, people thought that the existing ordinance was too
permissive and it allowed too many dispensaries too close together,"
Kato said. "The council decided that they agreed."

Santa Barbara businessman James Lee, who manages the Green Well medical
marijuana dispensary, said the successful passage of the new ordinance
would not significantly affect his store's day-to-day operations. In
fact, he said, he would be happy to see the matter resolved.

"I think the city is doing the right thing by putting regulations in
place," Lee said. "I hope it helps move the argument into the
past, so we can move forward. A lot of city resources have been expended
on this debate in the past year."

While Lee was satisfied with the restrictions, one local group said the
ordinance's new regulations are not tight enough. Santa Barbara
group the Downtown Organization said they want local lawmakers to
completely ban dispensaries.

Organization member and UC Santa Barbara alumnus Randy Rowse said the
group was concerned about drug abuse and the impact dispensaries may
have on nearby schools.

"By having dispensaries our community is allowing something to
happen that flies in the face of state law," Rowse said. "Under
the current parameters, anyone you know can be a patient."

Rowse, who graduated from UCSB in 1976, said marijuana has become
exponentially more powerful since his days, likely due to its intended
use for medical purposes.

"The stuff they have out there now is very different, more
potent," Rowse said. "The intent is that sick people are able to
get ahold of this from caregivers, who are not somebody standing behind
a counter with a bunch of jars."

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