Coun­cil Ap­proves Cannabis Or­di­nance

The Oakdale Leader - - FRONT PAGE - BY KIM VAN ME­TER Spe­cial To The Leader

In spite of con­cerns ex­pressed by some that the re­vised city or­di­nance gov­ern­ing cannabis pro­duc­tion within the city lim­its – both per­sonal and com­mer­cial – smelled too strongly of op­pres­sive bu­reau­cracy, coun­cil mem­bers moved for­ward with a 4-0 vote to ap­prove the pro­posed or­di­nance at the Mon­day, Nov. 6 meet­ing.

City Coun­cil mem­bers main­tained the city’s long-stand­ing con­ser­va­tive ap­proach to most pro­gres­sive is­sues by faith­fully hold­ing the line re­gard­ing the highly-charged is­sue of cannabis-ori­ented re­tail growth and per­sonal, in-home cul­ti­va­tion.

Pre­vi­ously, coun­cil di­rected staff to re­turn with re­vi­sions to the pro­posed or­di­nance that al­lowed for stiffer fines in re­gards to the in­home cul­ti­va­tion sec­tion.

Oak­dale City Man­ager Bryan White­myer com­plied with the coun­cil’s re­quest, re­turn­ing with, not only more strin­gent fines but the re­quire­ment of an Ad­min­is­tra­tive Cul­ti­va­tion Per­mit (ACP) for any­one wish­ing to ex­er­cise their right to grow up to six plants per par­cel for per­sonal use.

In ad­di­tion, the area sur­round­ing TL Davis Sports Com­plex, which was pre­vi­ously ear­marked for po­ten­tial dis­pen­sary lo­ca­tions was re­moved, cit­ing con­cerns re­gard­ing ex­po­sure to chil­dren.

The ad­di­tional re­stric­tive lan­guage didn’t sit well with some in the crowd, while oth­ers ap­pre­ci­ated the ap­pear­ance of strict reg­u­la­tions within a chang­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

As White­myer re­minded coun­cil at the pre­vi­ous meet­ing, mar­i­juana isn’t new to Oak­dale. Aside from putting Oak­dale within a plas­tic bub­ble, he posed to coun­cil, “Since we can’t keep it out of Oak­dale, how can we reg­u­late it?”

White­myer re­capped how al­low­ing cannabis within the city lim­its would put the fi­nan­cial bur­den of en­force­ment on the cannabis in­dus­try as it would pro­vide a self-sus­tain­ing in­come stream that out­right ban­ning would not.

Sim­i­lar to the pre­vi­ous meet­ing, com­mu­nity mem­bers filled the coun­cil cham­bers, con­cerned with how Oak­dale would pro­ceed, both for and against the is­sue on the agenda.

Busi­ness owner Frank Ed­wards took to the podium to ques­tion the right of coun­cil to limit free en­ter­prise. Ed­wards crit­i­cized the coun­cil’s re­stric­tive ap­proach to what he deemed should be a sim­ple re­tail per­mit, sim­i­lar to any busi­ness

wish­ing to op­er­ate within the city lim­its.

“Why can’t this in­dus­try have the same op­por­tu­nity to sink or swim on its own?” Ed­wards ques­tioned. “We the peo­ple have voted that we want this stuff – the same peo­ple who voted you into of­fice. No other busi­ness has to pay ex­or­bi­tant fees for a per­mit.”

Prospec­tive busi­ness ap­pli­cants with an in­ter­est in a cannabis-based busi­ness within the city were re­quired to pay a $5,000 per­mit fee in or­der to be con­sid­ered. The city re­ceived 14 busi­ness pro­pos­als, re­sult­ing in $70,000 just to process the pa­per­work with no guar­an­tee of suc­cess on the part of the ap­pli­cant.

Some com­mu­nity mem­bers ex­pressed strong ob­jec­tions to al­low­ing cannabis pro­duc­tion within the city, stat­ing con­cerns such as cannabis dis­pen­saries were likely to at­tract an un­sa­vory el­e­ment to Oak­dale.

“I am to­tally against this and I did not vote for this,” Ch­eryl Figueroa said. “I don’t want to see the dis­pen­saries and I don’t want Oak­dale to at­tract cer­tain types of peo­ple and that’s what is go­ing to hap­pen. I want a safe and sober com­mu­nity for my grand­chil­dren.”

For­mer coun­cil­man and busi­ness owner, Michael Bren­nan shared his con­cern that the or­di­nance, as writ­ten, was too re­stric­tive and smacked of in­tru­sive gov­ern­ment con­trol over an is­sue that is now le­gal within Cal­i­for­nia.

“Why are you turn­ing in­no­cent cit­i­zens into crim­i­nals? Why?” Bren­nan asked, ref­er­enc­ing the ACP ad­den­dum to the or­di­nance. “My rec­om­men­da­tion is to re­move the per­mit. Treat mar­i­juana as it was. Yes, it’s here and it al­ways will be … if you keep the Ad­min­is­tra­tive Cul­ti­va­tion Per­mit re­quire­ment, you might as well add in the cost of hand­cuffs, too.”

Bren­nan also took the coun­cil to task for the de­ci­sion to rel­e­gate dis­pen­saries to the city’s fringe, say­ing it would have the op­po­site de­sired ef­fect. “Quit try­ing to be Big Brother. Put the re­tail where it be­longs. Hid­ing it just makes the cu­ri­ous want to try it all the more. Quit be­ing ridicu­lous.”

The crowd erupted into ap­plause, en­cour­ag­ing more peo­ple to share their thoughts and feel­ings on the sub­ject.

Com­mu­nity mem­ber Brent Ferguson also cau­tioned the coun­cil to be wary of over­reg­u­lat­ing.

“Think of it like al­co­hol … it would be a lot eas­ier to reg­u­late if you did. If you reg­u­late this into the ground, you will have a thriv­ing black market. Take a sense of ra­tio­nal­ity on this topic,” Ferguson said.

Sim­i­lar to the first hear­ing, com­mu­nity mem­bers shared how cannabis changed their qual­ity of life, en­abling those with chronic pain or cancer to re­duce or elim­i­nate their need for opi­ates.

Heather Castillo, for­mer Air Force ser­vice­woman, said a bro­ken neck nearly left her slaved to strong painkillers un­til she dis­cov­ered cannabis for medic­i­nal pur­poses.

“Ev­ery time you go to the doc­tor they want to give you opi­ates and that prob­lem is way big­ger than this one,” Castillo stated, adding that the city’s pro­posed reg­u­la­tions were a dis­ap­point­ment, re­mind­ing them that their re­stric­tions could ad­versely af­fect those who rely upon cannabis for med­i­cal rea­sons. “Please keep in mind there are 70 and 80 year-olds us­ing cannabis.”

Adam French, speak­ing on be­half of Stanis­laus Con­sol­i­dated, read a let­ter of sup­port from the fire depart­ment, that boiled down to dol­lars and cents.

French ref­er­enced the city’s de­ci­sion to down­size in 2013 due to bud­getary con­straints.

“Many peo­ple lost their jobs,” French re­minded the coun­cil.

With more money fun­nel­ing into the city cof­fers, the city can pay for more public safety.

“We can in­crease our level of pro­tec­tion for the cit­i­zens,” French said.

Mayor Pro-Tem Tom Dun­lop, who was the key pro­po­nent be­hind the strin­gent reg­u­la­tions re­gard­ing the in­home cul­ti­va­tion, said, “In­for­ma­tion is cru­cial. I think it’s im­por­tant to take a con­ser­va­tive path and cau­tious ap­proach to make sure we do this right.”

In re­sponse to the crit­i­cism, Dun­lop re­minded com­mu­nity mem­bers that coun­cil had the op­tion of amend­ing the or­di­nance if they deemed change was nec­es­sary. How­ever, for the time be­ing, he be­lieved a year with the cur­rent or­di­nance was needed to de­ter­mine if re­vi­sions were nec­es­sary go­ing for­ward.

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