The Tulare City Council passed Ordinance 19-12 allowing for the permitting of up to three recreational cannabis dispensaries at its December 3 meeting. Two medical marijuana dispensaries already exist in the city.
With Councilmember Greg Nunley absent, the council voted 3-1 to adopt the ordinance. Councilmember Dennis Mederos cast the dissenting vote. Councilmembers Carlton Jones and Terry Sayre voted in favor, as did Mayor Jose Sigala.
The ordinance states, “Retail sales shall only be allowed in a storefront, in an area zoned C-4 or C-3, but at least 1,000 feet away from each other, at least 600 feet away from any school, and in compliance with all other State and local laws. (See Chapter 10 for zoning designations.) No distinction shall be made between medicinal and recreational sales.”
Mederos said he preferred that the matter “go to the ballot.” City staff, however, pointed out the cost of such an undertaking, estimated to be between $25,000 and $130,000.
Sayre was concerned by the number of dispensaries, and wanted to make sure that no more than three were to be allowed. It was at this moment that Sigala pointed out that two medical marijuana dispensaries were already in the town, and that Ordinance 19-12 referred specifically to the permitting of three new, recreational cannabis dispensaries.
The two medical marijuana dispensaries would be able to apply for permits to sell recreational cannabis as well. but only a total or three recreational pot dispensaries will be allowed in Tulare.
Jones, speaking primarily as a first-responder, began by mentioning that he’d never taken a drink of alcohol in his life. Or done drugs, he added, pointedly. “I wouldn’t encourage anyone,” he said. But, he said, as a fireman who has inhaled some “crazy stuff” and has known sick co-workers–he mentioned cancer specifically–Jones seemed to recognize the potential palliative effects of cannabis.
“I’ve seen the benefits,” he said.
The vote came nearly two hours into the meeting, with Jones assuming his seat on the dais just prior to the discussion and ensuing vote. Earlier in the meeting, Sigala noted that Jones “was on his way,” and bumped the discussion and vote regarding recreational cannabis dispensaries down the agenda to one of the last items.
Before Ordinance 19-12 was voted on by the council, the public was given its chance to opine. Six spoke before the council–three in favor, two against and another, apparently, neutral.
Most impassioned was Laura Fonseca, Board President of the Tulare Joint Union High School District. Citing an ever-increasing marijuana and vaping use among teens, Fonseca said in the 2016-17 school year there were 146 drug-related suspensions. That number, she said, grew to 293 during the 2018-19 year.
The figure represents an increase in suspensions of more than 100% from the previous year.
Furthermore, Fonseca said, the costs associated with drug prevention and intervention are always on the rise. These amounted to $159,850 during the 2015-16 school year. During the 2018-19 year, that of the doubled suspensions, drug prevention and interventions costs tallied $274, 118.
The vote was called individually by the City Clerk, as opposed to being called collectively by Mayor Sigala.
“So that passes 3-1,” Sigala said after the vote was tallied.
The ordinance will be on the city council December 17 meeting to hammer out details or clarifications.