City Council introduces ordinance to prohibit marijuana dispensaries

March 09, 2007

John V. Ciani, Ridgecrest Daily Independent

The Ridgecrest City Council, at its Wednesday meeting, introduced an ordinance that would prohibit the issuance of business licenses to businesses that would violate local, state or federal law. The proposed ordinance also states that issuance of business license does not allow the conduct or the continuance of any illegal business or of a legal business in an illegal manner.

The council also refused to move on an ordinance that would regulate medical-marijuana dispensaries. As a result, the proposed ordinance died. The council also extended a moratorium on the issuance of business licenses for medical=marijuana dispensaries.

Ridgecrest Police Chief Mike Avery said the first proposed ordinance amends the Ridgecrest Muhicipal Code to prohibit unlawful businesses in the city.

“Currently, the code basically states the city of Ridgecrest does not endorse unlawful businesses by issuing a business license,” he said. “This recommended amendment would change that to say that no business license would be issued to any business that would be in violation of local, state or federal law. Certainly medical-marijuana dispensaries or the possession of or the distribution of would be in violation of federal law, so therefore, this ordinance would keep any business license from being issued to that business.”

He said the proposed ordinance would also deal any other illegal business that may or may not try to come to Ridgecrest.

Avery said he added several revisions to the proposed regulatory ordinance.

One revision adds licensed child day-care facility as a definition of a school. Another changes the distance from a school from 1,000 feet to 1,500 feet. A third revision adds loitering to the list of offenses that can cause the suspension of a license.

Other revisions provide additional sufficient grounds for revocation of a license upon any increase of crime or consuming marijuana on the diepensary grounds and adds the requirment of two licensed security guards on site.

Applicants would also be required to submit a business plan and budget for the medical-marijuana dispensary. The plan must include projected revenues and expenditures for one-year periods including estimated salaries that shall be set at reasonable rates.

Any profit would have to be donated to a local drug-education program selected by the chief.

“I have to tell you that I worked very hard to take care of my concerns about secondary effects, after I reviewed it and looked at it, I'm just causing other secondary effects now.”

As an example, he said if a patient purchased medical marijuana and got robbed on their way out of the facility, that person might be afraid to report it because it would provide grounds to shut a facility.

Avery then recommended the council adopt the ordinance prohibiting such businesses.

Mayor Pro Tem Steve Morgan said he did not see a requirement that medical-marijuana dispensary employees wear picture identifications.

“We go to great lengths to have the employees and the owner-operator go through background checks,” he said. “If a police officer goes in and checks the log of current employees, he can match the log to the picture ID of the employee.”

“No matter how well you write the ordinance to regulate the facillity, we'll never come up with a way to regulate the user, “ said Mayor Chip Holloway. “Until we can regulate and make sure the right people are getting the medicine they deserve, I'm not comfortable with it.”

Resident Dave Matthews said the proposal to prohibit such businesses keeps things simple, while the regulatory proposal creates a lot of extra work for a lot of departments.

Another resident, Mike Hogan, said his wife is in a wheelchair as a result of an attack by a methamphetamine dealer. As a result, she takes a wide variety of medications including methadone and percocets daily to try to control the pain.

“Medical marijuana is one of the things that actually controls the burning sensation of the nerves in her hands,” he said.

Hogan said the trip to Bakersfield is very painful for his wife.

“Legislate and control, but do it with compassion and a heart,” he added. “This isn't about finding ways to get pot.”

Resident Joe Melendez said he sees no value in medical marijuana.

“We have enough problems. I don't see any future in providing an opportunity for people to cause more problems than we already have,” he said.

Another resident, Bud Klamt, told the council that he is a candidate for medical marijuana but has chosen not to use it.

“The federal law against this is illegal. Check it out,” he said.

“Is it better for a few to break the law and that those few be known by our local law enforcement and law enforcement looks the other way, or better yet, maybe we as a city and you gentlemen as a council can consider that as an issue and figure how exactly can we get medical marijuana to those who need it without endangering public safety of the vast majority of us,” said resident Walt Maurer. “One cannot deny what some of these are going through.”

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