Pubdate: Sat, 23 Jan 2016
Source: Ventura County Star (CA)
Copyright: 2016 The E.W. Scripps Co.
Author: Mike Harris


Commercial medical marijuana dispensaries are prohibited throughout 
Ventura County.

Now, to meet a March 1 deadline under a new state law, six of the 
county's 10 cities - Camarillo, Fillmore, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, 
Thousand Oaks and Santa Paula - are rushing to go a step further by 
formally banning small-scale, personal cultivation of medical 
marijuana. The Ojai City Council will take up the issue in February, 
but currently forbids personal cultivation.

Officials argue that they want to retain control over marijuana in 
their communities, while opponents contend that heavy-handed 
ordinances reduce patients' access to medicinal pot.

Geoff Ware, Thousand Oaks' code compliance manager, said city 
officials believe the new prohibition is consistent with the city's character.

Moorpark, Ventura and unincorporated areas of the county will 
continue to permit personal cultivation for qualified patients, which 
is allowed under the state health and safety code.

The Simi Valley City Council also has introduced an ordinance that 
will begin permitting personal cultivation, as recommended by the 
city Planning Commission, said Environmental Services Director Peter Lyons.

Planning Commission Chairman Scott Santino "just felt as if it was 
too restrictive to prohibit hospice patients from cultivation," Lyons said.

Under California Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 
that was approved by 56 percent of California voters, cities cannot 
prohibit residents with a serious health condition and a physician's 
recommendation from using medical marijuana.

According to medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe 
Access, more than 1.4 million Californians have used the substance 
for chronic pain, arthritis, migraines and cancer.


But the courts have ruled that cities can ban all marijuana 
cultivation - commercial and personal - regardless of Proposition 215.

In response to the California Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety 
Act, which went into effect Jan. 1, most cities in the county are 
adopting ordinances doing just that to the dismay of some medical 
marijuana users.

The regulation and safety act establishes a comprehensive state 
licensing and regulatory framework for medical marijuana. It requires 
cities and counties to have land use rules that regulate or prohibit 
commercial medical marijuana uses.

Cities that do not have such ordinances in place by March 1 will lose 
the authority to do so. The state Department of Food and Agriculture 
will then be the sole licensing authority.

And thus local cities and the county are scrambling to formalize, 
clarify and update their bans on the commercial cultivation, 
processing, distribution and delivery of medical marijuana.

The Fillmore City Council this month adopted a 45-day urgency measure 
banning medical marijuana's sale and cultivation - including 
personal, said City Manager Dave Rowlands.

"Several California cities have reported negative impacts of 
marijuana cultivation, processing and distribution activities, 
including but not limited to offensive odors, criminal activity, 
including violent robberies ... and public health concerns, including 
fire hazards and problems associated with mold, fungus and pests," 
states Fillmore's staff report.

The Moorpark and Port Hueneme city councils adopted their ordinances 
this past week.

The other cities' ordinances, plus the county's, have been introduced 
and are expected to be adopted by the March 1 deadline.

Before the introduction of the ordinances, many of the cities had de 
facto bans under "permissive zoning" land use regulations that did 
not expressively list dispensaries and commercial cultivation as 
permitted uses. The new ordinances will expressly forbid such operations.

Moorpark's Municipal Code has never addressed personal cultivation, 
and thus the practice is not expressly prohibited. It will continue 
to be permitted under the new ordinance.

The Moorpark City Council on Wednesday also introduced a second 
ordinance to allow deliveries of medical marijuana to a qualified 
patient by a primary caregiver. It will be considered for adoption Feb. 3.

Delivery will continue to be permitted in unincorporated areas of the county.

Some cities, including Santa Paula and Thousand Oaks, say that once 
their ordinances are in place, they may revisit the bans and take a 
more nuanced, less restrictive approach without the threat of a 
state-imposed deadline.


Some of the ordinances, such as Simi Valley's, were introduced this 
month without opposition from the public. Others, like those in 
Ventura and Thousand Oaks, drew considerable opposition.

Thousand Oaks resident Shari Sanders told the council she uses 
marijuana daily to help relieve chronic pain from a variety of 
ailments, including reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome.

"The main reason I'm against the ordinance is because it goes beyond 
commercial - it attacks personal cultivation," Sanders, 56, said in 
an interview. "Someone who is unable to leave their home and is very 
ill and they have limited income and they can't afford it. And now 
they're going to have to risk being turned into a criminal if they 
want to get a little plant to grow their own."

Sanders said she doesn't personally cultivate marijuana, but buys it 
from a dispensary in Los Angeles. Locally, Santa Barbara has legal 
dispensaries, too.

Sanders said that before she became ill a decade ago, she had been 
anti-marijuana, even divorcing her first husband in 1983 because he 
was a "pot-head and I didn't like it."

Chelsea Sutula, president of the Ventura-based Sespe Creek 
Collective, which delivers medical marijuana throughout Ventura 
County, also opposes the ordinances.

"There are thousands of qualified, compliant patients using cannabis 
for medical purposes in the county and none of these bans are drawn 
up with any of their concerns in mind," she said.

While the collective says it's a nonprofit and hence compliant with 
Prop. 215 and the state's subsequent Medical Marijuana Program Act, 
the proposed local delivery bans would threaten its business.

On its website, the collective urges its customers to proactively 
oppose the ordinances.

Bert Perello was one of two Oxnard council members to vote against 
introducing that city's ordinance this month.

"I want to be clear: I'm not for recreational use of an identified 
drug such as marijuana," he said in an interview. "But I am for 
allowing people to use cannabis for relief of medical issues. That's 
why I felt I had to vote that way."

He said he has no problem with qualified patients personally 
cultivating medical marijuana under health and safety code guidelines.

The code allows patients with a serious health condition, a valid 
state-issued medical marijuana identification card and a physician's 
recommendation to possess 8 ounces of dried marijuana and to maintain 
six mature or 12 immature marijuana plants for personal medical use.


Fillmore may yet allow personal cultivation, Rowlands said.

Now that the urgency measure is in place, the city's Planning 
Commission will consider a permanent ordinance, he said.

"A recommendation will be made to the City Council, which may or may 
not allow personal cultivation," he said. "The council has not yet 
addressed this issue."Ventura County's few legal medical marijuana 
cooperatives will not be impacted by the local ordinances, said 
Ventura County Sheriff's Capt. Curt Rothschiller. The cooperatives 
are permitted to operate under guidelines of the Medical Marijuana 
Program Act, which in 2003 clarified Prop. 215.

The sheriff's office raided the Shangri La Care medical marijuana 
cooperative in Ojai in October as part of what Rothschiller said this 
month was still an open investigation into alleged violations of the 
guidelines. Shangri La denies any wrongdoing.

Thousand Oaks, meanwhile, has a business that evaluates patients for 
medical marijuana recommendations. It's classified as a medical 
office, which is allowed under current zoning. City staff is 
recommending it be allowed to remain classified as a medical office.
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