San Juan Bautista eyes rec cannabis ban

Council aims to act before state issues licenses early next year

At the same meeting the San Juan Bautista City Council decided to hire a cannabis consultant, city leaders moved to draft an ordinance that would ban recreational cannabis businesses within city limits before the state is expected to start issuing licenses next year.

City attorney Deborah Mall told city council Tuesday the ordinance would be temporary.

“The state is going to start issuing licenses, they estimate, in January of 2018,” Mall said. “So you need some kind of band-aid in place or provisional ordinance to ban all these facilities until such time as you can prepare the ordinance which has the vetting process, the nexus studies, look at business taxes, et cetera.”

The temporary recreational cannabis ordinance seeks to ban sales, cultivation and delivery within San Juan Bautista city limits. The city has had a medical cannabis dispensary ban in place since 2011 according to city officials.

“I think we’ve made it fairly clear that this is intended as a placeholder until we’re able to work through a more comprehensive ordinance that may or may not allow different types of businesses in town,” Mayor Chris Martorana said.

During public comment city resident Jolene Cosio said she had trouble understanding the idea of banning deliveries.

“It seems like if someone was really in need of that marijuana, I’d probably rather have it delivered to their home than have them drive out and get it,” Cosio said. “I would not be opposed to deliveries, but I am in agreement with the ordinance of not having a place to sell it or cultivation.”

Vice Mayor Jim West addressed the issue of medical need.

“I’ve got to get up and drive out of town to get my heart medicine, my cholesterol medicine and all the other medicines I take,” West said. “I don’t see that as a disadvantage. I don’t think we’re hurting anyone by not allowing that and I think we ought to go with a complete ban at this point. It’s temporary, it’s a placeholder.”

West said he looked forward to hearing from recently hired cannabis policy consultant and Pinnacle Strategy President Victor Gomez.

Council members approved a nine month contract not to exceed $9,000 with Gomez earlier in the evening.

“All I’ve heard is people are adamant on one side or adamant on the other side,” West said. “I’ve never heard anybody who I think is reasonable discuss the issue and I look forward to that.”

Gomez said San Juan Bautista needed a local structure before recreational licensing starts next year. He’s currently helping San Benito County draft their cannabis ordinance.

“If you don’t have anything, the state could license without any local approval and allow a cannabis business to come into your jurisdiction without you having a say at all,” he said.

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