Medical marijuana access, early polling results discussed

VISTA — At the last Vista City Council Meeting, the issue of marijuana and preliminary polling results were an issue of discussion. Reporting to the council was Assistant City Manager Aly Zimmerman. She started her presentation by explaining that this agenda item resulted in the spring when staff members were directed by the City Council to bring back more information regarding medical marijuana access and delivery in the city of Vista.

In her presentation, Zimmerman pointed out that in May the City Council did authorize a public polling on the issue of medical marijuana access within the city. According to Zimmerman, the poll was conducted in June, and their consultants were currently analyzing the results.

“Based on the preliminary updates that we have received, the poll indicates that, in general, Vista voters are supportive of local access to medical marijuana, and to some number of medical marijuana dispensaries being allowed to operate,” Zimmerman said. “Voters are also generally supportive of taxation and regulation of the medical marijuana dispensaries and are generally opposed to allowing these dispensaries to locate in any of the city’s residential zones.”

Zimmerman also provided a brief overview sharing that the current Vista municipal code prohibits any commercial marijuana activity. Zimmerman was also quick to point out distinctions of commercial marijuana both in the city of Vista and at the state level. She noted that there appeared to be some confusion within the community.

“Both personal, medical and personal recreational use of marijuana are legal in California,” she said. “Proposition 215, back in 1996, first legalized medical marijuana, and then in 2015, the state also enacted the California Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act. And then last November 2016, Proposition 64 legalized recreational marijuana.

“However, that all being said, local governments still maintain the authority to prohibit the retail and commercial activities, not personal use, but the commercial and retail activities which would include the storefronts and delivery.”

Zimmerman wanted everyone to know that illegal dispensaries operating in the city of Vista have added to the confusion. While these operations function as businesses, it gives the illusion that they are allowed.

Since the passage of Proposition 64, the state of California is working toward consolidating the current medical marijuana regulations with the new recreational marijuana regulations.

Zimmerman said that a Senate bill, which was a budget trailer bill for the state to streamline the state’s marijuana regulations, was recently signed by the governor.

“This streamlining may provide guidelines the city could use as it considers modifying our local regulations, but at this point, we have not had the opportunity to fully review or analyze this,” she said. “It’s about a 200-page bill, so that’s something that we will be doing … taking a close look at those regulations and determining how they would fit into whatever direction we receive from the City Council.”

Deputy Mayor John Franklin offered his opinion following Zimmerman’s report, a presentation by senior tax policy advisor Lisa Renati of the State Board of Equalization, and a report by San Diego Sheriff Cpt. Hank Turner. Franklin said he believed there was a lot of learning ahead for both the state and nation on this topic.

“I really am not convinced that Vista needs to be at the forefront of the trailblazing on this issue,” he said. “I’d really like to continue to learn from other communities, and that’s where I’m at on it right now.”

The Vista City Council directed staff to move forward in continuing their research on the issue, as well as examining the regulations to permit two dispensaries.

 

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