Council extends ban on pot businesses

Marijuana. Katharine Lotze/Signal

No one will be buying marijuana at a pot shop in Santa Clarita, the City Council decided Tuesday at their meeting.

Council members extended their moratorium to prevent cannabis businesses from setting up shop in the city and will pass an ordinance to permanently ban them next year.

Proposition 64 was passed in last year’s November election, which legalized recreational marijuana use in California.

Soon after, the city council approved an Emergency Ordinance in December 2016 to implement a temporary moratorium before extending it in January through this December.

The decision came in light of city staff’s recommendation to do so, after staffers conducted nearly a year’s worth of research on how other cities have dealt with marijuana legalization and storefronts.

The cost of administration and enforcement exceeds the amount of revenue that is generated by pot shops, Santa Clarita staff learned from the Denver County District Attorney’s Office.

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

“In my experience in my 33 years, marijuana has been at the root of some of our problems,” Sheriff’s Captain Robert Lewis said. “Any way we can restrict and regulate that…would be in our best interest.”

After an inquiry from Councilman Bob Kellar, Juvenile Intervention Team Detective William Velek said he finds that marijuana is often a gateway drug for youth.

“With my experience with the kids in the community, it’s a bad idea,” Velek said.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Hart High School District both supported the effort to ban the businesses.

While the council members agreed they were against storefronts, Mayor Cameron Smyth inquired about the manufacturing of industrial use marijuana products.

Since he was elected last year, Smyth said he has engaged with community and their interests on the topic.

Council members Weste and McLean agreed that protections should remain intact for those who use marijuana medicinally and no decisions made on Tuesday would impact that.

Though, several community members spoke in support of legalizing the shops.

Banning legal pot shops will only encourage illegal cannabis sellers to keep operating, according to Chris Hickok.

Not wanting a proliferation of pot businesses should not rid the city of them completely, but put a limit on how many of them there are, according to Josh Eisenberg.

Marijuana should be viewed similarly to alcohol and be used responsibly, not prohibited, Eisenberg said.

“Don’t stick your head in the sand just because people are treating a joint of marijuana like a glass of wine,” he said.

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