Hollister approves law allowing marijuana dispensaries

Canisters of marijuana are marked for medical use only at Purple Cross Rx in 2010. The dispensary shut down after the county and city outlawed the operations.

Hollister council members Monday approved a medical marijuana ordinance that will lift the city’s ban on dispensaries in January.

The ordinance lifts the city’s current ban on medical marijuana facilities within city limits approved nearly seven years ago. The new law goes into effect 30 days after adoption.

At the Dec. 5 meeting, after months of deliberations, council members decided to cap the dispensary number at two facilities, remove the 600-foot setback from conforming residential use and religious institutions, make dispensaries able to operate in light industrial zoned areas, remove mixed use zoning and change the working age from 21 to 18.

State law still requires that all medical marijuana facilities have at least a 600-foot setback from schools.

Additional changes were made during Monday’s meeting after Councilman Ray Friend’s motion to adopt the resolution with the Dec. 5 changes failed 3-2. Councilman Karson Klauer brought the resolution up for reconsideration with additional changes.

Additional changes include moving the notification radius of a medical cannabis facility from 100 feet to 1,000 feet; and a 150-foot setback of all medical cannabis facilities from existing conforming residences, religious institutions and rehabilitation centers.

Friend then motioned to adopt the ordinance with the changes, which passed 3-2. Mayor Ignacio Velazquez and Councilman Roy Sims were against it.

During the reconsideration, Klauer said he’d like to look at banning recreational-use businesses.

“I’d also like to look at, we already have this in place right now, rewriting an ordinance that bans recreational marijuana businesses so that we don’t have to have that conversation anytime soon,” Klauer said.

Klauer also said the ad hoc committee should come back with a more structured meeting process. He made a successful motion to dissolve the ad hoc committee at the Dec. 5 meeting.

Sims started his comments by talking about Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana in California.

San Benito County voters cast their ballots in support of Prop 64 with a 55.46 percent majority.

“I want to start off by saying pretty soon there’s a law that’s coming into effect that’s going to allow anyone 21 and over to grow marijuana, smoke marijuana, do those types of things,” Sims said. “You’re going to have that in your residential area. It’s going to happen.”

Sims continued to talk about the conflict between local medical use and recreational use.

“The problem with that is it takes away from the fact that we have a medical situation we’re looking at,” he said. “I think there is a medical legitimacy to this compound that is really getting pushed to the side because of the recreational use. That’s probably the hardest part about this.”

Sims said it was unfortunate that Prop. 64 passed because he thinks the conversation would be different.

“Ultimately, we need to tax this in a way so that we can regulate this,” Sims said. “We’re going to need additional police officers, testing; we’re going to need all of these things. You look at Santa Cruz County, and (they have) an entire division dedicated to this.”

Velazquez said he could see the council coming back to the ordinance in a year to examine possible adjustments.

“Maybe we were too strict in certain areas that we didn’t need to be, but I think it’s a little tougher to come back and try to implement new rules later rather than earlier,” Velazquez said.

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