During the November 2016 election, 54% of Visalians voted against legalizing recreational pot. Their city council was listening.
The city council voted 5-0 to ban the sale and cultivation of pot within the city limits at its August 7 meeting. The restrictions apply to medical and recreational marijuana.
The Tulare County Board of Supervisors have also prohibited all commercial recreational marijuana activity, outdoor cultivation at private residences, and limits indoor grows to six plants, which is the rule under Proposition 64.
The new law allows cities and counties to decide for themselves if they want to allow dispensaries or professional cultivation. The ban does not interfere with an individual’s right to use recreational pot.
Many Valley cities are in the process of deciding what to do about the new law, but all have started the discussion. Despite the lure of millions of dollars in sales tax revenues from dispensaries or the professional cultivation, the majority of larger communities have decided to take a pass. Fresno along with the entire county has also voted for the same ban.
That decision, along with Visalia’s, could prove a boon to the smaller Valley communities that have recently hit hard financial times trying to balance their budgets. They have had to cut services and lay off city personnel because a lack of revenue or huge bills.
Coalinga was the first South Valley community to legalize the commercial cultivation of pot, and it has been the only so far in the Valley to approve of a pot dispensary within the city. Coalinga has since sold almost all of its industrial park to large commercial pot growers.
The hoped for tax windfall has been slower than expected because of the heavy strain on their small town electrical grid.
Farmersville is still in the process of deciding but are leaning towards allowing the commercial cultivation of pot and leaning against a pot dispensary.
Hanford is the furthest along in the Tulare /Kings County area and is going forward with the commercial cultivation of marijuana but has banned dispensaries.
The crowd was thin at the Visalia City Council meeting whereas it was standing room only with dozens of comments in other communities when discussing pot. Only three people spoke during public comment – one in favor and two against.
Councilmember Steve Nelsen said, “As hard as I have tried to find something positive about pot I couldn’t.” He said that while doing his own research he has discovered that in Pueblo, Colorado, the first town to fully embrace the legalization of pot, there has been an increase in homelessness, traffic accidents, and the use of pot by minors.
Nelsen also said that the prolonged use of pot increases the likelihood of dementia and Alzheimer’s, an issue close to his heart and about which he educates the public.
Vice-Mayor Bob Link said that Visalians made clear in the city’s opinion survey, and the November 2016 election, that they didn’t agree with the legalization of pot.
Mayor Warren Gubler said that voting to allow the sale and cultivation of pot would put the city’s stamp of approval on it.
Councilmember Greg Collins agreed with Nelsen.
“Our police and code enforcement have enough on their plate and don’t need more.”