Port Hueneme starts crafting marijuana dispensary laws

January 18, 2017 | Geoff Marshall

By Anne Kallas for the Ventura County Star

Sarah Armstrong, director of Industry Affairs for Americans for Safe Access, asked that the proposed ordinance drop the requirement for state-issued identification, saying certified doctors' recommendations along with identification should be enough. She cited the expense of the cards and the reluctance of patients to have their personal information in a state database.

 

 

The Port Hueneme City Council could decide whether to open a marijuana dispensary under the terms of an ordinance proposed Tuesday at a special marijuana ad hoc committee.

Councilman Jon Sharkey, the acting chairman of the meeting, asked Deputy City Attorney Karl Berger to proceed with “due deliberate speed” to revise an ordinance drafted before the passage of Proposition 64, the state measure that legalized the recreational use of marijuana.

Almost 40 people showed up for the midday meeting to provide recommendations to the city about how to craft provisions that would allow marijuana to be sold within city limits.

Ultimately Sharkey asked Berger to revise the draft ordinance so the council can decide how many dispensaries it wants to allow; whether marijuana should be taxed using the existing tax schedule or a new tax measure be adopted and voted on; guidelines for indoor cultivation and manufacturing, including a provision prohibiting solvent manufacturing; and hours of operation.

“And be sure the overall verbiage is in line with existing state law,” Sharkey said.

City Manager Rod Butler said he would make sure the ordinance was presented to the council as soon as possible.

Sharkey represented the council at the meeting because the other committee member, Councilman Will Berg, was unable to attend.

Responding to the various issues raised at Tuesday's meeting, Sharkey asked Berger to make sure any proposal would allow the council to “fill in the blanks.”

The meeting opened with Fiona Ma, chairman of the California Board of Equalization, explaining that because marijuana is still classified by the federal government as a Schedule I narcotic — akin to heroin with no accepted medical uses — any money from marijuana sales cannot be deposited into banks. That has led to a dangerous cash culture, she said, with the potential for crime and taxation difficulties.

Sharkey said he had a number of concerns about marijuana sales in Port Hueneme.

“I’m wrestling with how any dispensary would fit into the city," he said. "In the 2013 Department of Justice memo, the federal government agreed not to pursue marijuana prosecutions in states that legalized it. I worry that if the federal government gets back to prosecuting marijuana, which is still a Schedule 1 drug, the city would be party to prosecution for receiving taxes.”

Ma explained that at a state level, taxes from dispensaries are collected with other funds, creating “co-mingled funds, which we’ve been doing for 20 years.”

Berger said he was “ethically obligated to remind you that this is a Schedule 1 drug, which is federally prohibited. If Senator (Jeff) Sessions is confirmed as attorney general, and his position on marijuana has been well-documented over the years, the DOJ memo could be changed and rescinded.”

Sharkey then turned the discussion to the city’s draft ordinance, opening it up to the audience.

Sarah Armstrong, director of Industry Affairs for Americans for Safe Access, asked that the proposed ordinance drop the requirement for state-issued identification, saying certified doctors' recommendations along with identification should be enough. She cited the expense of the cards and the reluctance of patients to have their personal information in a state database.

Other speakers noted that the original draft ordinance was for one dispensary, which would create a monopoly. Sharkey agreed that the council should decide how many dispensaries the city would allow.



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