Council to discuss pot shops Tuesday

Customers buy products at the Harvest Medical Marijuana Dispensary in San Francisco in April 2016. Associated Press

Marijuana talk is back on the City Council agenda set for Tuesday.

After a year of research from city staff members, the council will address their findings, taking into consideration how other cities have operated with legal marijuana storefronts.

Citing pages of research culled over the last 12 months, staff is recommending the council extend their moratorium to prohibit pot businesses before implementing an ordinance to permanently ban them.

It’s been just over a year since Proposition 64 was passed, which legalized recreational marijuana use in California.

The council adopted an Emergency Ordinance in December 2016 to implement a temporary moratorium before extending it in January through this December.  

Staff members visited several areas in Colorado to look at civic interaction with marijuana businesses, after recreational use was legalized in 2012. Both the cities of Aurora and Fort Collins allow commercial marijuana, and the city of Centennial prohibits it.

“Because no jurisdictions in California have any practical experience with recreational marijuana due to the recent passage of Prop 64, meeting with representatives from cities that have experience with commercial marijuana programs as well as regulation of personal growth provided city staff with a unique perspective on the implementation of recreational marijuana programs and associated impacts on their communities,” the staff report reads.

Santa Clarita staffers also met with the Denver County District Attorney’s Office, leading to their decision to advise against the shops.

Pot programs have not increased revenue, according to the report. In fact, the cost of administration and enforcement exceeds the amount of revenue that is generated.

“The marijuana industry says there stands to be a real economic benefit to a city to have this industry,” City Associate Planner Dave Peterson said.

Mayor Cameron Smyth stands by his assessment from last year that there should not be any marijuana retail locations in the city.

“I found the economic component of the report compelling,” Smyth said. “All those factors weighed in, it doesn’t seem for a city the size of Santa Clarita to be a significant revenue generator.”

The mayor said he is still “curious” about the manufacturing of industrial use marijuana products, whether that be for oils, lotions or otherwise, and said he’ll be asking questions Tuesday.

Also, since marijuana is still illegal at the federal level and considered a Schedule 1 narcotic, state pot businesses are cash only and cannot make deposits in banks.

The study also noted that after legalization, there was a 145-percent increase in pot-related vehicle fatalities, from 47 in 2013 to 115 in 2016 in Colorado.

Additionally, illegal growth and cultivation in cities that have legalized retail use of marijuana has increased even after it was legalized, Peterson noted.

In their research, city staff also contacted eight other Southern California jurisdictions.

The cities of Fillmore, Lancaster and Ventura all prohibit commercial land use of marijuana. The city of Pasadena and Los Angeles County prohibit commercial land uses, but may allow them in the future pending ongoing research, according to information provided by the city.

Santa Monica prohibits commercial land uses with the exception of manufacturing. Glendale and Palmdale have not taken any action and are conducting research of their own.

With safety concerns in mind, Councilman Bob Kellar, a former Los Angeles Police Department officer, said there are no circumstances that could convince him to favor or facilitate any city marijuana stores or manufacturing.

Kellar compares governments gaining profit from the marijuana industry to profit from gambling.

“I find it completely repulsive that cities would make money to set up businesses that can sell products that are potentially devastating to an individual or family,” Kellar said. “It is reprehensible for government to look at the money that it will bring in and take advantage of people and their possible weaknesses.”

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