The Santa Barbara City Council approved revisions to its existing medical marijuana ordinance at their Tuesday meeting, a decision that would cap the number of medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits to only five.
At the meeting, members of the SB Ordinance Committee presented their recommended edits to the city’s current medical marijuana ordinance, which enforces a moratorium on opening new dispensaries within the city. The revised ordinance — passed by the council in a 5-2 vote — included a requirement that Santa Barbara dispensaries only sell their bud to county residents possessing medical marijuana cards. Should the revised ordinance be passed in a final vote when it is revisited by the council on June 1, it will end a year of debate about area cannabis regulation.
City of Santa Barbara Senior Planner Danny Kato said the recommendations that were adopted came about as a response to growing community concern over the possibility that locals are abusing current marijuana laws.
“Basically, people thought that the existing ordinance was too permissive and it allowed too many dispensaries too close together,” Kato said. “The council decided that they agreed.”
Santa Barbara businessman James Lee, who manages the Green Well medical marijuana dispensary, said the successful passage of the new ordinance would not significantly affect his store’s day-to-day operations. In fact, he said, he would be happy to see the matter resolved.
“I think the city is doing the right thing by putting regulations in place,” Lee said. “I hope it helps move the argument into the past, so we can move forward. A lot of city resources have been expended on this debate in the past year.”
While Lee was satisfied with the restrictions, one local group said the ordinance’s new regulations are not tight enough. Santa Barbara group the Downtown Organization said they want local lawmakers to completely ban dispensaries.
Organization member and UC Santa Barbara alumnus Randy Rowse said the group was concerned about drug abuse and the impact dispensaries may have on nearby schools.
“By having dispensaries our community is allowing something to happen that flies in the face of state law,” Rowse said. “Under the current parameters, anyone you know can be a patient.”
Rowse, who graduated from UCSB in 1976, said marijuana has become exponentially more powerful since his days, likely due to its intended use for medical purposes.
“The stuff they have out there now is very different, more potent,” Rowse said. “The intent is that sick people are able to get ahold of this from caregivers, who are not somebody standing behind a counter with a bunch of jars.”