I was extremely disappointed by the very misleading op-ed written by Lemon Grove City Councilman Jerry Jones . In order to support his extreme bias against medical marijuana access, he has painted a false picture, both of the current state of medical marijuana regulation in Lemon Grove and what the currently circulating initiative petition would accomplish.
It is this institutional opposition to subvert the will of the voters, who just last November voted to allow medical marijuana access in the city, that has led a group I’m part of to publish a follow-up initiative to close the loopholes that the city has found to avoid implementing Measure V, and safeguard patient rights.
It would allow patients to have a plant in the privacy of their home, without making it government record, allow permitted dispensaries to make deliveries to home-bound patients, ensure construction work on dispensaries is performed by a licensed and trained workforce and add definitions for the sensitive uses of Licensed Day Care Facility and Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treatment Center.
Jones writes that the initiative petition would lead to no protection of “church-based schools and the removal of any accountability for facilities in violation of the law and city ordinances.” There is nothing in the current initiative petition that would eliminate church-based schools as a sensitive use buffer. There is nothing that would stop the city from suspending or revoking a permit for a dispensary that is out of compliance with local or state regulations.
The biggest falsehood in Jones’ op-ed is his claim that “marijuana businesses will pay no local taxes.” Lemon Grove is unique, because in Measure V, a yearly per patient fee was included that would lead an average dispensary to pay over $60,000 in fees to the city per year, beyond what would be paid through standard sales tax. This would be, by far, the largest tax, or fee, levied on medical marijuana dispensaries by any jurisdiction in San Diego County.
This tax revenue, however, could only be collected if Lemon Grove were to allow a medical marijuana dispensary to open within its city limits.
Despite Lemon Grove staff producing an absurdly biased impact report to voters prior to the election, making the outrageous claim that Measure V would lead to 15 dispensaries, only two dispensaries’ applications submitted could be approved under the current ordinance (not three, as claimed by Jones).
These applications, however, continue to languish in planning as staff continues to concoct new requirements – asking for ever more outlandish documentation, including incorporating papers of the agent of register and background checks of licensed cultivators in other jurisdictions, among other nonsensical requests, to delay the processing of these applications.
When Measure V was passed, voters were told that they would be allowed to have limited plants for personal medicinal use – the city is now requiring that that all patients growing for personal use register with the city and submit to a property inspection. The city has prohibited dispensary deliveries, which were allowed under Measure V. Staff even proposed subverted language in Measure V that would have allowed for cultivation at dispensaries and for operating hours between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. by proposing no cultivation be allowed at dispensaries and restricting their operating hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., which would have made it impossible for a dispensary to survive.
The initiative would in no way “open up the floodgates for medical marijuana dispensaries,” as Jones argued. At most, it could conceivably allow for two additional dispensaries, still far fewer than voters were told would be allowed in Measure V.
I’m as upset as Jones at the idea of a special election. It is unconscionable that the voters must re-affirm their clearly stated desire to allow safe access.
That said, a special election is in no way necessary. Should our group collect enough signatures, the City Council can adopt the new definitions, and the issue would be resolved. The only reason a special election would be required is if the obstructionists, who lost last year, demand to vote again.
If the city had chosen to act in good faith and to faithfully implement the intent of the ordinance, none of this would be necessary. But the continuous stream of bias and inaccurate information being provided by city officials, like Jones, only fuels a lack of confidence in city government, and strengthens my resolve that further citizen regulation is needed to safeguard safe access in Lemon Grove.
Cynara Velazquez is a representative of Citizens for Public Safety and Safe Access, and is author of Measure V and the Lemon Grove initiative petition that is currently circulating.