Bruce Whitman

Councilman Bruce Whitaker was one of two votes against proceeding with storefront marijuana dispensaries at the Fullerton city council meeting Tuesday night. (Daily Titan)

A small number of marijuana dispensaries are cleared to open in Fullerton after a fiery city council meeting on Tuesday night, which saw multiple interruptions from residents and clashes between council members.

In a narrow 3-2 vote, the council approved a system that allows as many as five retail cannabis storefronts to open, along with several other cultivation and delivery businesses in the city that would not have an open retail space.

No more than two shops in each of the city’s five districts are allowed, and there cannot be more than three sites below Chapman Avenue.

Fullerton will be the second city in Orange County to allow cannabis retail outlets after Santa Ana.

The vast majority of commenters at the meeting were against legal cannabis coming to town, as they held up signs calling to protect children and saying they were concerned that crime would increase. At one point, the council was forced to take a five-minute recess to get the crowd under control, which had started yelling at the council from their seats.

Most of the commenters were concerned that the majority of the shops would be installed in South Fullerton, as the many zoning restrictions involved saw most of the available land in that area.

Jesus Silva, councilman and Nicolas Junior High School teacher, proposed adding a restriction for the shops to be spaced out between districts, and that a maximum of three would be allowed in the city’s southern districts.

Many commenters took aim at Silva for backing the move to legal cannabis.

“I voted no on Prop 64 at the time. I did. I was like 'I don't want this in here.' But the more educated I became on it, I had a U-turn,” Silva said. “I think this is a good first step that we can take and if things do start going bad, we the council can always come back and say we're going to stop this.”

Proposition 64 was the 2016 ballot initiative to legalize recreational use and the cultivation of cannabis for adults older than 21 in California.

Mayor Jennifer Fitzgerald and Councilman Bruce Whitaker were the two votes against proceeding with storefront dispensaries. Fitzgerald said that as a mother she could not approve the decision.

“I'm the only one up here who's raising kids in this city in this day and age,” Fitzgerald said. “If this council wants to go a step forward than recognizing that it's already legal, that people can grow it at their house, that they can use it for medical purposes, but they want to go a step forward and encourage fancy Apple-like stores in every council district in this city, so that kids think it looks even more inviting, I'm certainly not going to be a part of that.”

Fitzgerald and fellow council member Ahmad Zahra argued over remarks Zahra allegedly made before the meeting, asking if he would “have to listen to (Fitzgerald’s) BS tonight.”

“Just because we moms are passionate about raising our kids to have as few distractions as possible, which is already darn near impossible, don't discount what we say because we get emotional, because we get passionate,” Fitzgerald said. “We are the ones dealing with this and trying to keep poison out of our kids brains.”

Zahra shot back, asking how she could approve other recreational outlets.

“You're OK with bars. You support bars and liquor stores, you're OK with that? You're just giving a show,” Zahra said. “You think just because I don’t have kids, I don't care?”

“I find that personally offensive,” Fitzgerald said. “You wanted to listen to my BS tonight, so here it is. I'm a mom, first and foremost, and if that's BS I feel sorry for you.”

Whitaker said his decision was largely based on concerns from his constituents on retail stores, and referenced wanting to wait until after the election where the council will pick up at least two new members as Councilwoman Jan Flory and Fitzgerald are not running for office.

The council postponed a discussion on where the new tax revenue from the cannabis would go, but the motion they approved on Tuesday required that some of it go towards a task force aimed at educating children of the risks associated with marijuana use.

The council’s next meeting is set for Oct. 20.

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