Pubdate: Thu, 14 Dec 2017
Source: Fresno Bee, The (CA)
Copyright: 2017 The Fresno Bee
Author: Tim Sheehan


Medical marijuana dispensaries and other portions of the medicinal
cannabis supply chain could be legal in Fresno as the result of a
unanimous vote Thursday by the City Council.

The 7-0 vote begins the process of rewriting the city's complete ban
on commercial marijuana operations that was adopted earlier this year.
It will likely be several months, however, before drafts emerge for
ordinances and rules that will govern where and how businesses that
cultivate, process, manufacture, distribute or sell medical marijuana
can operate within the city.

The action also directs that medical marijuana businesses planning to
operate in Fresno can begin their application process to the state
Bureau of Cannabis Control as the city moves through the task of
amending its ordinances. It also calls for the city to issue letters
to medical cannabis businesses to apply for temporary state licenses
for cultivation, manufacture, testing, sales and other aspects of the
supply chain.

What was approved Thursday, however, is not what was being proposed by
Council President Clint Olivier and two co-authors, councilmen Oliver
Baines and Paul Caprioglio. Their original resolution would have kept
in place Fresno's prohibition against shops or dispensaries selling
marijuana for recreational use, but open up other types of commercial
operations for either recreational or medical cannabis.

Councilmen Steve Brandau and Garry Bredefeld thought that was going
too far. "The language of this resolution opens the door to
recreational marijuana," Brandau said. "That may not worry you, but it
worries me."

I have been moved over the course of my time here listening to those
who have legitimate medical needs (for marijuana). I would love to be
able to truly provide people with medicines without loopholes.

Instead, Brandau offered an alternative motion that left no loophole
for recreational marijuana; Bredefeld quickly seconded the motion.

Under Proposition 64, a statewide measure approved by voters in
November 2016, marijuana possession and cultivation of up to six
plants for personal use was legalized. In January, the state can begin
issuing licenses for marijuana businesses, but it is up to cities and
counties to determine how to regulate such businesses -- or prohibit
them outright -- under local land-use rules. In September, the Fresno
City Council finalized its own ordinance barring any recreational
marijuana-related businesses from setting up shop anywhere in the
city, with the exception of testing labs in industrial areas for which
marijuana testing represents 20 percent or less of their business.

Fresno has had a de facto prohibition on medical marijuana
dispensaries on the books for more than a decade. The ordinance
technically allows medical marijuana dispensaries in areas that are
zoned for medical offices -- but only if they comply with both state
and federal laws. And while medical marijuana has been legal in
California since voters passed the Compassionate Use Act in 1996,
marijuana for any purpose remains illegal under federal law.

Brandau and Bredefeld both suggested that Olivier, Baines and
Caprioglio were effectively trying to slide their original resolution
past the rest of the council at the final meeting of the year as a
last-minute action.

"It's not just about medicinal; it's a cover for what's being done
here," Bredefeld said of the proposal. "If this was just about medical
dispensaries, I might support this today. But this is more. aE& I
think the city of Fresno wants to get into the business of marijuana."

The rough-and-tumble discussion followed about an hour of impassioned
public testimony, both from patients who favor having legal access to
dispensaries to buy marijuana as medicine and people who oppose
legalizing recreational marijuana sales. Fresno Police Chief Jerry
Dyer and Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp told the
council that they sympathize with people with documented and
legitimate medical need for marijuana for their ailments, but urged
the council to tread carefully on any measure that would legalize
recreational marijuana.

Brandau, too, said his position has changed on medical marijuana. "I
have been moved over the course of my time here listening to those who
have legitimate medical needs" such as post-traumatic stress disorder,
cancer, and other illnesses or diseases, he said. "I would love to be
able to truly provide people with medicines without loopholes."

When Brandau made his motion to initiate the ordinance-amendment
process -- but to restrict the business licensing and zoning only to
marijuana for medical uses -- it took Olivier by surprise. Olivier
abruptly called for a break in the meeting to confer with Baines and
Caprioglio behind closed doors. When the trio came back into the
council chamber about 15 minutes later, Olivier announced that he and
the other two would not support Brandau's motion.

I think it was more important to move the ball forward and more
important to speak in a unified voice. There's a benefit to have a 7-0
(vote), at least for this important step.

Bredefeld, in the meantime, castigated Olivier for the closed-door
maneuver. "Our business is supposed to happen out here" in public,
Bredefeld said. "I don't know what happened back there, but it should
have happened out here. ... You didn't like the way it was going, and
you stopped the meeting. It was completely inappropriate."

Ultimately, Olivier, Baines and Caprioglio did vote for Brandau's
motion. "This is the first time that you in the audience have seen me
come this far," Brandau said. "I'm calling on my colleagues to not be
hypocritical at this time and vote on this measure for medical marijuana."

"You made an argument that I would make, and you're right," Baines
told Brandau. "I will support your motion."

Olivier said he, too, was moved by Brandau's challenge. "His very
earnest and poignant final remarks flipped me," Olivier said after the
vote. "I think it was more important to move the ball forward and more
important to speak in a unified voice. There's a benefit to have a 7-0
(vote), at least for this important step. It sends a message to the
business community and to community members who use cannabis as
medicine that this city is committed to moving forward in an
intelligent, progressive way."

Clint Olivier, Fresno City Council president, explains Thursday, July
20, a 3-3 vote on the cultivation of marijuana, one aspect of the
Fresno's broad ban of recreational pot. Earlier in the day, Olivier
tweeted: "Council kills marijuana ban."
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MAP posted-by: Matt