Santa Barbara city officials have resumed court hearings and legal proceedings regarding the sale and use of marijuana after a prosecution hiatus during the midterm general elections.
The presence of Proposition 19 and Measure T on the recent ballot and their implications for the availability of marijuana in the county caused a temporary stoppage in court cases and the issuance of dispensary permits. However, since both Prop 19 and Measure T failed to pass, the city’s laws remain unchanged and city prosecutors are once again pursuing past cases.
According to Hilary Dozer, chief deputy district attorney for Santa Barbara, law enforcement will continue monitoring dispensaries as they did prior to the midterm elections.
“Dispensaries will be handled as they always have been,” Dozer said. “The state requires that it be a nonprofit organization, so you have to examine them based on their business model.”
Dozer said officials use various means to ensure that dispensaries operate within legal limits.
“Sometimes it requires examination of their business practices, sometimes it requires examination of their funds,” Dozer said. “But law enforcement has an obligation to make sure dispensaries are under compliance.”
Currently, the city’s ordinance allows a maximum of three operating dispensaries within its limits at any one time. Das Williams, city council member and 35th District assembly member-elect, said this ordinance allows officials to more effectively control the growth of medicinal marijuana in the city.
“I think it shows that people support a small number of well-run dispensaries,” said Williams. “I do think that it is important to take it slow and to work out a rational system that will be effective.”
Despite only three available permits, more than five dispensaries are still active in the city. Only one dispensary, Pacific Coast Collective, has met the qualifications to remain active, but is under criminal investigation and runs the risk of losing its permit. Three other dispensaries, Hortipharm, Humanity and The Healing Center, all face similar charges.
According to Santa Barbara City Council member Dale Francisco, the dispensaries’ actions are typical of similar operations in the past.
“We have had dispensaries in town for a long time,” Francisco said. “And their illegal activities have been around for just about as long as they have.”
Despite the city’s restrictions on medicinal marijuana, Williams said current state deficit problems and a growing acceptance of the substance will result in its legalization in the near future.
“I certainly think that it will pass eventually,” Williams said. “With a $25 billion state deficit, sooner or later someone will come forth with legislation that will pass with the voters.”