At its regular scheduled council meeting, on Wednesday, January 20, 2016, the City of Williams discussed amending its current city ordinance prohibiting cannabis dispensaries, cannabis manufacturers, cultivation and delivery of cannabis for medical use as allowed by state law.
This is in response to recent California legislation identified as the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (AB 243, AB266, and SB 643) that will take effect March 1, 2016. This legislation will comprehensively allow the state to regulate medical marijuana (medical cannabis); however it preserves the local ability to control, or regulate, or ban medical cannabis cultivation, transportation, and distribution within its city.
Although the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act allows municipalities to regulate or prohibit cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, transportation, and distribution of medical cannabis within their jurisdiction, it requires some local enabling legislation to accomplish some aspects of this.
“If the city chooses to regulate these activities comprehensively, it must adopt an overlay of local regulatory standards that are at least as strict as the state’s default regulations,” said Williams Chief of Police, John Osbourn.
“Specifically, the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act provides that if a city has not banned or regulated cannabis cultivation by March 1, then cultivation in that City will be subject only to state law on the issue.”
About five community members expressed their concern for their rights for safe access for the use of Medical Marijuana, asking the City of Williams to consider allowing a dispensary within city limits.
The council although remained opened to the idea, rebuffed the topic as the City of Williams has already banned medical marijuana dispensaries since 2012 and that the subject was to amend the current ordinance to allow the ability to discuss the possibility of dispensaries after the March 1 deadline.
According to Williams Chief of Police, John Osbourn, the City’s Municipal Code currently bans medical marijuana dispensaries per Williams Municipal Code Section 17.01.030.8(b)(2), which reads “It shall be unlawful for any person or entity to own, manage, establish, conduct, or operate, or permit to be established, conducted, operated, owned, or managed as a landlord or property owner, any medical marijuana dispensary, or to participate as a landlord, owner, employee, contractor, agent or volunteer or in any other manner or capacity, in any medical marijuana dispensary, in the city.” and that Section 17.06.320 defines medical dispensary to mean “any facility or location where medical marijuana is made available to and/or distributed by or to three or more persons who are primary caregivers, qualified patients, or persons with an identification card, in strict accordance with California Health and Safety Code Section 11362.5 et seq.”
In Osbourn report, he noted that the cultivation, transportation, and distribution of medical marijuana can create problems relating to public health and safety, crime, water, and air quality, as well as energy consumption.
City Staff recommended that the City Council adopt medical marijuana cultivation regulation or ban. Additionally, it was suggested that overhauling the existing language to track closely the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act.
Williams Citizen, Dixie LaGrande commented that she understands that people need access to medical marijuana and would like more information on why doctors can prescribe it to their patients medically if that was its original use.
“I also understand that dispensaries are a significant revenue source, and Lord knows we need that, but I would like more information on a law officer point of view, and I wish that the California Highway Patrol was represented to answer questions,” said LaGrande, “my greatest fear besides legitimate customers, would a dispensary attract unsavory people with unsavory purposes. That is where information is needed. Is this going to be a crime magnet or not.”
Councilmember Bergson introduced a motion to table the item to a special meeting on February 10, and then vote on the ordinance at the regular meeting on February 17. The motion failed approval.
Councilmember Kent Boes then made a motion to accept and introduce and waive for the first reading as the ordinance has been presented.
“This ordinance requires no action at this time and is only an introduction waiving the first reading,” said Boes.
He then added to his motion to hold a special meeting on February 3, where the council and community members can introduce a new ordinance with the regulations that have been brought forward.
Boes commented that he understood that two weeks would be a little tight but wanted to give extra time for the community to review and have a chance to come back at the regular meeting that will be adjourned to February 24.
The motion received a passing vote.
The City of Williams will discuss the opportunities of medical marijuana ordinance at the special meeting to be held on Wednesday, February 3, 2016, at 6:00 PM at Williams City Hall. A decision on the new ordinance or amended ordinance will be slated for decision by councilmembers at the Wednesday, February 24, 2016, regular council meeting of the City of Williams at 6:00 PM.