The Solvang City Council on Monday approved the first reading of an ordinance that would allow personal use of recreational marijuana for those 21 and older within city limits as well as the use of medicinal marijuana, but would ban the sale of recreational marijuana.
Whether or not the sale of medicinal marijuana will be allowed has yet to be determined and will be discussed further by the council. Solvang already allows delivery of medical marijuana to qualified patients.
The city currently has an urgency ordinance in place that prohibits the manufacturing, processing, laboratory testing, labeling, storing and wholesale and retail distribution of cannabis. The ordinance is set to expire in August.
Several council members were in favor of having further discussions about medical marijuana, but agreed to approve the ordinance banning recreational sales.
“My stance on this at this point is I don’t feel that we are ready to approve a permanent ordinance yet because I think that it warrants much more discussion, much more public input particularly in the area of medical marijuana use,” said Council member Karen Waite.
City Manager Brad Vidro suggested that councilors use the term “non medical” in the ordinance, so the issue of medical marijuana could be brought back up.
“Then you could deal with regular medical dispensary in our code,” Vidro said.
The city already has a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation.
Councilor Ryan Toussaint said there are many citizens living with pain and arthritis that may benefit from medicinal marijuana.
“I’d like to do a little more homework and research before making a decision on this,” Toussaint said.
Councilwoman Joan Jamieson said the council needed to hear more from the medical community about the benefits of medical marijuana.
“I’ve known a number of people personally who have suffered severe cancer invasion of their body and the only relief they could ever get was from cannabis oils,” Jamieson said.
Councilor Neill Zimmerman said marijuana isn’t as bad as its legal counterparts.
“Maybe marijuana isn’t as bad as we think it is or the stigmas that have been put on it over time,” Zimmerman said. “You think of the two things that are legal here; tobacco, alcohol. And you think of how many lives have been lost and then you think about marijuana and you can’t really even ask that question, it’s more like ‘how many lives have been enhanced?’”
Mayor Jim Richardson said he was in favor of making the ordinance more restrictive, because any marijuana use within the city would ruin Solvang's “brand.”
“We have to remember the millions of dollars we spent on getting the brand called “Solvang” recognized around the world,” Richardson said. “You know that the Netherlands has an image of marijuana usage and prostitution. We don’t want anything like that recognized by our town.”
Waite said she disagreed with Richardson in making the ordinance more stringent than it already is.
“I’m not trying to say we should have a free for all for marijuana in the city of Solvang, however the citizens of the state of California have voted for some recreational and medicinal uses and it’s coming,” Waite said. “Look at the county, look at the cities, look at Santa Barbara, look at Goleta, they all have legal dispensaries.”
Zimmerman said it was too much, too fast.
“It’s not written evenly, it’s not really fair,” Zimmerman said of the ordinance.
“I can agree with you, but we have that August deadline,” Richardson said.
Waite said the topic should’ve been more openly publicized and wanted to have a public workshop on the issue.
“Evidently we don’t have people who really are interested in it,” Richardson said, citing a low turnout at both the city council and planning commission meetings.
Three members of the public spoke at Monday’s meeting, and all were opposed to having marijuana businesses within the city.
Mary Conway, with the Santa Ynez Valley Youth Coalition, said she was happy that councilors were taking steps to keep Solvang’s youth safe.
“I’m really grateful that you have this ordinance before you written as it is. That you’re taking a strong stance in helping to protect our kids from the access and the influence,” Conway said.
Dawn Dunn, who works for a tobacco prevention program, passed out electronic cigarettes to show the council.
Toussaint said the council could bring the issue back up for further discussion involving a medical dispensary.
The first reading of the ordinance passed 4-1, with Zimmerman voting no.
This story has been updated to correct the parameters of Solvang's marijuana ordinance.