Hesitant TO City Council Opens Door for Medicinal Pot Dispensary Testing Facility During June 27 Meeting

By Kevin Harris

Thousand Oaks’ anti-pot City Council took their first baby steps Tuesday night to honor the will of state and local voters, by allowing a medicinal marijuana dispensary and a marijuana testing lab within city limits. During the exhaustive, 5-hour City Council meeting, however, held on June 27, the Council made it clear that there will be no legal recreational marijuana in Thousand Oaks under their watch. 

The Council also chose not to allow marijuana delivery services, manufacturing, or cultivation within the city, at least for now, though with cultivation, all state residents may grow up to six pot plants, per state law. 

Forget the election; Here’s what you really think about pot

Last November, majorities of California, Ventura County, and Thousand Oaks voters all decided to legalize medicinal and recreational marijuana use with Proposition 64 – set to be fully enacted on January 1, 2018. But since then, Thousand Oaks city staff has created and run a series of local polls on the topic, two of which they had heavy controls over, and the third – a general online poll, which they described as “Informal,” had little control over. 

The poll results were not surprising. The two where the city had more control showed majorities favoring legalizing medicinal pot, while disapproving of recreational weed, and the online poll showed respondents favoring legalization across the board – more closely resembling the Prop. 64 election results. The Prop. 64 election was barely mentioned Tuesday night, if at all, and you can probably guess which polls the Council focused their attention on.  

The Presentation, Speakers & Debate

The Marijuana Policy presentation, which was Department Report Item 9A, was given by Community Development Director, Mark Town, with help from Dave McPherson, a consultant from HDL Company. Following the presentation was a Q&A from the Council. 

Council Member Al Adam chimed in first. “Unlike the state, we have the ability to decide what we allow within our city,” he said, detailing a provision within Prop. 64. But he went on to ask the staff what a non-retail, medicinal marijuana store front might look like. “Would it have a big marijuana leaf on the front of the building?” 

McPherson said that, because it’s not a retail store, it could be very discreet and even be part of an office park in an industrial part of the city, if desired. 

Also present at the meeting, and made available to the Council to answer any questions, was Thousand Oaks Police Chief Tim Hagel. Both Council Member Rob McCoy, and Mayor Bill De-La Pena, asked the Chief about the prevalence of crimes against commercial pot deliveries verses crimes against pot dispensaries. The Chief’s answer was rather interesting. 

Police Chief Tim Hagel

He first noted that there were no crimes on record against pot deliveries locally (pot deliveries remain illegal in Thousand Oaks), but that there have been some sophisticated robberies in other areas. But he also pointed out the distinction between pot deliveries and a dispensary, from the perspective of a would-be thief: Rob a delivery driver, and you stand to get both the product (drugs) and cash. Rob a dispensary, and you only have the potential to get drugs, plus you have to get past the heightened security and cameras. The takeaway being that commercial marijuana deliveries present a heightened security risk to a community over dispensaries. 

After the Q&A came the public speaker period – and there were quite a few. This was clearly the main event of the evening, both from the Council’s and the audience’s point of view, and offered some very powerful, emotional, and facts-based testimony on the issue. Some highlights of the speakers statements are as follows:

  • Nancy Chappelle: Generally anti-legalization, though open to medicinal marijuana if dispensed responsibly. “Marijuana is not harmless. Just ask anyone with a 14-year-old girl or boy who has lost interest in life and their ability to cope.” 
  • Daniel Matera: Against any legalization, and said medicinal marijuana is a scam and a joke.  
  • Mark Wallace: Outreach Director for a local support group for drug addicts. “The medicinal marijuana system has been gamed to where the only people who can’t get a medicinal marijuana recommendation are dead people.” He said MJ is a “gateway drug,” and opposed legalization. 
  • Sarah Armstrong: With “Americans for Safe Access.” Pro legalization. “There has never been a better time to (legalize) and regulate.” She said that small towns such as Thousand Oaks have demonstrated a much easier time enacting safe access than larger cities. She took several questions from Council Members, and answered them all quite well. 
  • Lori Robinson: Local mom whose son went into a medicinal marijuana-induced coma, then later committed suicide in 2012. He started on the medical MJ after a surgery. She opposes legalization. 
  • J.C. Simmons: Long time Thousand Oaks resident and medical MJ patient, for his arthritis. Currently has to drive 50 miles round trip into the San Fernando Valley for his supply. He is pro-local dispensary. 
  • Graham Davis: From the Thousand Oaks Medical Marijuana Outreach. He stated that the polls controlled by the city had a majority of respondents aged 65 and above (unverified). But he also made a powerful business point; that he wants three MJ dispensaries in the city instead of just one, to prevent a dispensary monopoly. 

Graham Davis

  • Joe Kyle: Pointed out that no cities in area except Pt. Hueneme will allow cultivation, but Pt. Hueneme alone can not supply enough for local demand. Wants to allow limited indoor cultivation. 
  • Chaise Rasheed: Long time Thousand Oaks resident, former City Council candidate. Pro legalization, said that criminalization ruins lives. Suggested that parents have to look out for each others’ kids because “government can’t raise your kids.” 

After the public comments, it was the Council’s turn to comment. Almost immediately, Council Members Fox, Price, Adam and McCoy indicated they would not even consider legalizing recreation marijuana in Thousand Oaks, but with medicinal MJ, some division, at least in theory (as opposed to in vote), existed between members. 

Council Member Price was interested in bringing MJ testing to the city, while Adam said he would only entertain medical MJ dispensing. Council Member Adam seemed to have an almost fearful, or perhaps repulsed posture with the entire concept of marijuana. 

Even when discussing the possibility of bringing in a medical MJ dispensary, Council Member Adam said the following: “I’m looking at one dispensary, not three. I’m looking at a business park setting in an industrial part of town. I’m looking at video surveillance that’s available to the police station.” 

Meanwhile Council Member McCoy said he opposes THC but is open to CBT, and would like to see more studies about how much THC is needed to provide relief. 

Eventually, Council Member Fox made a Motion to take no action on cultivation; manufacturing; transportation and distribution of medicinal marijuana in Thousand Oaks, and the motion passed unanimously. 

Then Council Member Price made a Motion to allow one MJ testing facility in the city – which is almost like a blood lab. Such facilities use minute amounts of marijuana to test the purity, strength and contaminant levels, and it might also present a good business opportunity for the city. But that Motion produced such a lengthy, confusing debate about whether the lab would test recreational pot along with medicinal MJ, that Price attempted to revoke his Motion. The Council did eventually vote of his Motion though, and it passed, 3-2, with McCoy and Fox voting against. 

By the time Item 9A was over, the Council also voted to disallow medical marijuana deliveries in the city, and to allow one medical marijuana dispensary (with very specific requirements).    

The next City Council Meeting will be Tuesday, July 11, 2017, at 6:00 PM. To watch the City Council meeting online, go to: http://www.toaks.org/departments/city-manager-s-office/watch-totv/past-meeting-videos.

Scroll down to “available archives” and click on “city council.”  The meeting agenda and the meeting video are both available there.

 

Kevin Harris

Kevin Harris is a reporter, editor and journalist, previous President of Cal State Northridge’s Society of Professional Journalists having worked for the LA Times and Newhall Signal. He is now also a Realtor and videographer, and lives with his two children in Thousand Oaks. 


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One Response to Hesitant TO City Council Opens Door for Medicinal Pot Dispensary Testing Facility During June 27 Meeting

  1. William Hicks June 30, 2017 at 11:38 am

    Thanks Kevin for covering this issue so well. I rarely side with council member Adam, BUT I have family history that precludes that recreational MJ is detrimental to a State, Community and particularly to some negatively affected Families.

    When it comes to “medical marijuana” I still have questions as to how this is limited to concrete health needs. For instance, like sometimes used by opioid addicts, what stops a “patient” to go doctor shopping for prescribed marijuana to provide themselves with recreational purposed MJ?

    Reply

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