Pubdate: Thu, 04 Feb 2016
Source: Chico News & Review, The (CA)
Copyright: 2016 Chico Community Publishing, Inc.
Author: Meredith J. Cooper


Proposed Ordinance Was Too Prohibitive, Unnecessary, Members Say

"Let's forget this, whatever it was."

That was a motion by Chico Vice Mayor Sean Morgan regarding a 
prohibitive medical marijuana ordinance proposed by City Attorney 
Vince Ewing at Tuesday night's regular City Council meeting (Feb. 2). 
The panel agreed unanimously.

The mood of the council while discussing the ordinance, which would 
have expressly banned medical marijuana dispensaries and delivery 
services despite the fact they're already not allowed within city 
limits, was overall skeptical. The ordinance was crafted based on the 
new state Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, which creates 
a framework for state and local licensing and oversight of commercial 
medical marijuana. But Ewing was clear in his opening remarks that 
the city was under no obligation to take action on Tuesday.

Councilwoman Tami Ritter questioned some of the wording of the 
ordinance. To her, she said, it sounded like the city would be 
banning marijuana outright. The section she was referring to, 
however, dealt only with "commercial" activities, Ewing explained. 
So, she found another passage: "No person shall cause, permit, allow, 
aid, abet, suffer, or conceal the delivery or transportation of 
marijuana or any marijuana-infused product to any person that either 
originates or terminates within the City of Chico, or engage in any 
act in furtherance of such purpose."

To Ritter, this section-particularly the "or transportation of" 
portion-seemed, once again, overly prohibitive. "Then you can't bring 
your medicine anywhere, or bring anyone medicine, or possess it."

"That's a reasonable reading of that particular section," Ewing answered.

"So that would ban all marijuana?" Councilman Randall Stone asked.

"It would be an interpretation," Ewing replied.

And so the conversation went, with council members posing questions 
and Ewing providing lawyerly answers, or no answers at all. At one 
point, Stone asked Ewing if the state had set forth a calendar for 
when it would begin licensing medical marijuana businesses. "I don't 
know the answer to that question," Ewing replied.

"I thought it was January 2018?" Stone said, to shouts of approval 
from the audience. (A footnote in Ewing's own report to council 
states that the Department of Consumer Affairs will begin issuing 
licenses in January 2018.)

Fifteen members of the public addressed the council, several of them 
operators of medical marijuana delivery services. All pleaded with 
the council to not limit patient access to cannabis.

"I'm a little confused about what you're trying to accomplish. You've 
already said that everything you want to [ban] today is already 
illegal," said Patricia Smith. "History has proven repeatedly that 
bans don't work."

"We need to have an open dialogue, and this feels like, 'Put the cup 
over it and hold it down,'" said Jessica MacKenzie, representing the 
Inland Cannabis Farmers' Association.

Perhaps the most succinct comment of the night came from Alan 
Chamberlain: "Nothing at all is precisely all that Chico needs to 
do." And that's exactly what happened. In the end, the council 
decided to nix Ewing's proposal. The overall consensus was that the 
landscape is rapidly changing, particularly with the November 
election looming (it includes multiple initiatives to legalize 
recreational marijuana), and there's plenty of time before 2018 to 
decide on a licensing scheme.

In other council news: A group of citizens brought forth a proposal 
to rename the Chico Municipal Center-which comprises three buildings 
on the block bordered by Fourth and Fifth, Main and Wall streets-for 
longtime former City Manager Fred Davis, who died last year. The 
proposal included several requests: 1. To rename the entire block the 
Fred Davis Municipal Center; 2. To rename the city administrative 
building the Fred Davis Municipal Building; 3. To allow the group to 
erect a public art piece recognizing Davis' service to the city; and 
4. To allow installation of bronze plaques with reliefs of Davis' 
face on each of the three buildings in the municipal center.

Over a dozen citizens spoke on the proposal. Many were fervently in 
favor of the changes; others argued that while Davis did dedicate 
much of his life to Chico-he served as city manager for 39 years-the 
plan was over-the-top. Some council members suggested adopting just 
one of the name changes but not both; in the end, however, the 
proposal was accepted, 5-2, with Councilwomen Ritter and Ann Schwab dissenting.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom