City Council to reduce qualified marijuana delivery services

by Burris DeBenning

To further restrict marijuana access in Ventura, City Council, at the meeting held on November 13, voted to limit the number of outside, approved medical marijuana delivery services from five to three to assure greater control of the delivery pipeline. Before November 13, staff had presented the limit to five delivery services that required both a delivery permit and business license to sell medical marijuana to City residents. According to some in Council, the original proposal of five services lacked clarity as to five being the precise number, or whether it would be possible to institute a tighter limit. After Council discussed the matter among themselves and questioned Jeff Lambert, City Community Development Director and the City Attorney, Greg Diaz, Council decided on a motion to set the limit to three allowable delivery services.

While state residents approved Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) in November 2016, Ventura City Council, with strong support from local law enforcement, adopted an Interim Urgency Ordinance that extended a citywide moratorium on commercial cultivation and sales until mid-November 2017. The state is not expected to develop or institute AUMA regulations until January 2018. AUMA also defers medical use and sales to local jurisdictions, so Ventura is not obligated, at any time, to allow commercial cultivation or dispensaries. Tonight’s vote centered on the latest staff recommendation for a cannabis restriction ordinance that would only allow vendors outside city limits to sell marijuana to residents medically authorized for use.

In earlier discussions of the ordinance, staff recommended that only five businesses be allowed to sell in the city. After staff presented the latest iteration of ordinance on November 13, Councilmember Mike Tracy asked if the number five was final. Other members were concerned as well about the clarity and “magic number” issue. Mr. Lambert responded that five was based on the Council’s direction to “go slow” and assess the true medical need among residents. The City Attorney and Police Chief Ken Corney agreed that five was not a mandate, but was a reasonable number of services that staff and law enforcement could monitor. Staff went on to say that the range of three to five was based on studies in other municipalities.

Councilmember Christy Weir voiced concern about the regulation process itself, and that five delivery services seemed more unwieldy than a lower number. Staff and Council concurred that Council had full discretion to amend the ordinance by restricting the number of outside sellers to three. One citizen protested that local delivery services were being disadvantaged by the ordinance. The motion to amend carried 7-0.

Note: Burris DeBenning is a new contributing writer to the Ventura Breeze. He will be reporting on City Council news and other related stories.

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