Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Marijuana Ordinance to Go Before City Council for Vote

Since last July, the conversation around Santa Barbara’s medical-marijuana ordinance has changed from where, to how, to whether dispensaries should be operated at all within the city limits.

When it meets Tuesday, the Santa Barbara City Council will have four options to consider, but if its track record holds firm, there is likely to be a fifth — indecision or continuance.

Five of seven votes are needed to approve any sort of action regarding the medical marijuana storefront collective ordinance — whether it’s adoption, further revisions, sending the topic back to the Ordinance Committee to consider a ban, or pursuing competing ballot measures on November’s ballot.

At the May 18 meeting, a 5-2 vote pushed the ordinance to Tuesday, where members were expected to adopt it without further ado. However, the crucial fifth vote given by Frank Hotchkiss is moot, as he now plans to push for a complete ban.

“Everything’s back on the table,” Mayor Helene Schneider said.

She and Councilmen Grant House and Das Williams have consistently voted for the ordinance revisions to move forward. Ordinance Committee member Bendy White has been hesitant with some aspects, usually arguing for more restrictive requirements, such as excluding the downtown area. He also recommended a two- to four-cap maximum and stricter location limits during his time on the Planning Commission.

He and Schneider have announced that, if the issue gets stuck in gridlock, they would propose two conflicting ballot measures regarding storefront collectives. Voters would be faced with adopting a ban or the revised ordinance — and if both passed with more than 50 percent, the one with the most votes would prevail.

Council members Dale Francisco — who was on the Ordinance Committee previously and helped craft the document he now votes against — and Michael Self dissented in the May 18 vote and show no signs of changing their minds. Francisco has openly supported a ban and argued for a discussion of the dispensary vs. collective legal dilemma late last year. He and former Councilwoman Iya Falcone brought the issue of ordinance revision to the council last July.

Self, in addition to Schneider, has never been on the Ordinance Committee.

Arguments for the dispensaries have focused on safe access to medicinal marijuana, while opponents have focused on the possibility of crime and illegal use and abuse of the system.

Tuesday’s meeting will begin at 2 p.m. in City Hall, Anacapa St. The item is on the consent agenda, although it’s likely to be pulled off for more discussion.

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