SAN BERNARDINO >> While voters in November will get to choose whether to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in the city with certain restrictions, opponents of the measure might compete with another ballot item that allows dispensaries with a different set of restrictions.
The City Council voted Tuesday night to put a proposed regulatory scheme on the ballot, after making clear that the majority of them personally opposed the proposal either philosophically or in its details.
The play was forced by about 6,000 registered voters who signed a petition to put the measure on the ballot. That was more than enough to give the city only two legal options: implement the measure, or put it on the ballot.
Bypassing the customary presentation on the proposal’s basics and why it was up for a vote, Mayor Carey Davis introduced the measure with a slideshow linking marijuana use to deadly car crashes, school dropouts, crime and the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
“Regulation may not eliminate the black market,” Davis said, alluding to the fact that marijuana is commonly but illegally sold in the city. “It may only create another market to police.”
Some cannabis advocates said the proposal submitted by the Upland-based California Cannabis Coalition was the wrong way to regulate marijuana. And other officials objected to the specifics of the measure, saying it was a move by “outsiders” with no interest in the city.
One piece of evidence they presented: No one from the California Cannabis Coalition attended Tuesday’s meeting.
Twenty-two residents and others spoke against the measure and three spoke in favor of it, according to a count by Councilman Jim Mulvihill. Comments by several speakers were ambiguous, but the overwhelming majority opposed it.
Reached by phone Wednesday, California Cannabis Coalition President Craig Beresh said there was no reason to attend a meeting when the council couldn’t legally vote against him.
“That was a foregone conclusion,” Beresh said. “The bottom line is we’re happy to help the citizens with an issue of great importance. It’s the democratic process.”
Councilman John Valdivia, who as chairman of the city’s legislative review committee has been trying to prepare the city for the expected passage in November of a statewide initiative legalizing recreational marijuana use, pushed for what he called a “poison pill” — a countermeasure that would also allow regulated medical marijuana dispensaries, but on terms more acceptable to the city.
If voters approve both the Upland group’s proposal — named the San Bernardino Regulate Marijuana Act of 2016 — and the city’s countermeasure, only the one that received more total votes would go into effect. Otherwise, the city would be prohibited from passing any ordinances that conflict with the voter initiative.
The council voted 6-1 Tuesday to direct City Attorney Gary Saenz to draw up the countermeasure. In the same vote, they directed City Manager Mark Scott to work with a firm to prepare a poll intended to gauge residents’ opinions on marijuana.
Council members said they intended to put the countermeasure on the ballot only if the poll indicated the Upland group’s measure was likely to pass.
Mulvihill voted against that plan, saying he opposed any measure allowing marijuana.
“Putting (the countermeasure) on the ballot, I think, confuses the issue and slips something dangerous through the back door,” Mulvihill said.
In addition, a second citizen group also based outside the city has submitted official notice of intent to circulate petitions for its regulatory scheme. If that group gathers enough valid signatures from registered voters in the city — 3,674 — that measure will be on the ballot.