Fullerton city council prohibits use of land for businesses and clinics involving marijuana

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(Ethan Peschansky / Daily Titan)

Fullerton City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday night to approve an amendment to the city Municipal Code prohibiting businesses from selling, distributing, cultivating or testing marijuana.

The code will be amended by broadening and clarifying restrictions regarding what businesses utilize marijuana. It currently prohibits medical marijuana-related land uses, but it will include restrictions to recreational marijuana where there were none before.

The state of California is responsible for granting licenses to recreational businesses under California Senate Bill 94, but is prohibited to do so if the license would violate local ordinances.

The amendment will prevent the state from granting these licenses in Fullerton.

Many citizens spoke in favor of prohibiting zoning for recreational marijuana businesses during the public comments portion of the meeting.

“I’m okay with people’s rights to use it in their own homes, but I don’t want their personal decisions or the effects of that drug to be forced upon me, my kids or anyone else,” said Fullerton resident Munish Bharadwaja.

Others spoke against the new amendment, claiming regulation would allow the city to better enforce the law.

“If you prohibit this activity entirely, you’re going to move the operations who are now willing to show you a face … Back to the dark alleys, to a dimly lit parking lot or even worse, across the street from a school, at a house or an apartment where it had been for decades, not just in this city, but all across the country,” said lawyer Hector Perez.

The main goal of the amendment is to preserve city control of cannabis zoning before the State of California Bureau of Cannabis Control issues licenses in 2018.

“By continuing the ban, we are continuing local control. If we don’t take this action tonight, we default to state law and whatever the state might decide to do, and we’d have no say in it,” said Mayor Pro Tem Doug Chaffee.

However, Chaffee is open to revisiting the code at a later date.

“Studies change things, science can change things and show us that differences could be made. So this doesn’t mean it is forever locked into place, but I think it’s the right move now,” Chaffee said.

Fullerton Mayor Bruce Whitaker was the lone ‘No’ vote on the council. He noted the success of the statewide vote to legalize recreational marijuana during the 2016 election in the city of Fullerton and law enforcement’s lack of progress stopping drug-related offenses.

“We’re getting clear direction from the voters. We also have clear evidence and information that what we’ve been doing up to this point hasn’t worked very well,” Whitaker said. “We commit huge amounts of law enforcement resources to this problem even as our voters and the electorate in many other states are saying ‘Look, we don’t want this to be a continuation of the war on drugs.’”

This was the first and only reading of the amendment as further readings were waived. A final vote is necessary before it can go into effect, but a date for that vote has yet to be scheduled.

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