Marysville: Yes to pot dispensaries, no to pot growing | TheUnion.com
Eric Vodden
Special to The Union

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Marysville: Yes to pot dispensaries, no to pot growing

Two medical marijuana dispensaries could be allowed in Marysville following City Council support of an ordinance loosening restrictions for cannabis facilities in the city.

In a separate Tuesday night vote, the council also approved banning the cultivation of marijuana — giving one victory to cultivation opponents and one to dispensary supporters. Second readings of both ordinances must still be approved — likely on Jan. 19 — before the actions are final.

Council members voted 3-2 to approve the separate laws following a more than three-hour meeting before a divided audience in the packed chambers.

Mayor Ricky Samayoa was joined by council members Bill Simmons and Chris Pedigo in supporting both proposals. Councilmen Dale Whitmore and Jim Kitchen opposed both.

“I do not want Marysville to become a marijuana mecca, and I would not support this ordinance.”

— Marysville City Council member Dale Whitmore

Samayoa said the ordinances come after new California regulations that increase state control of cannabis, but for the most part leave intact local agencies' ability to regulate medical marijuana. Noting that dispensaries are regulated by the state, he said the ordinances are about having control over cannabis use in the city.

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"We aren't talking about recreational use," Samayoa said. "We are talking about the medical use of marijuana."

Simmons said Marysville in the past has found itself behind the times on other issues. He noted the ordinance "doesn't open the door to anybody who wants to come in."

"We have to move into the next century," he said. "It (legalization of marijuana) is going to come."

However, Whitmore agreed with some opponents who feared allowing dispensaries would draw marijuana users from throughout northern California.

"I do not want Marysville to become a marijuana mecca, and I would not support this ordinance," Whitmore said.

Whitmore also opposed the ordinance banning cultivation, saying he was against an exception in the regulation that allows indoor cannabis cultivation in connection with a dispensary.

The cultivation ordinance is modeled on Live Oak's that bans marijuana grows there. The state is requiring cities without existing cultivation ordinances pass regulations by March.

For the ordinance allowing two licensed dispensaries, a conditional use permit approved by the city planning commission and council would be required for specific applications. It also specifies distances from which dispensaries must be located from schools and parks.

Of 25 people who spoke during Tuesday night's public hearing, 13 were against less restrictive marijuana regulations. Frequent applause from one side or the other followed comments by speakers.

Medical marijuana proponents passed out slips of paper asking supporters to raise their hands "each time you hear (Buck Weckman or any other speaker) say what you believe to be a lie." Several audience members raised their arms during comments made by marijuana opponents.

Weckman, of the Families Against Cannabis Trafficking, said it appeared the council was crafting the dispensary ordinance to favor a couple of locations rumored to be potential sites. One is the old Del Pero Mondon meat packing plant on B Street and another is in the vicinity of Rideout Memorial Hospital.

"Is the city developing special zoning to meet a specific property?" Weckman asked the council.

Council members did not respond during the meeting, but Samayoa on Wednesday called the allegation "absurd."

"I guess people can make any comments they want," he said. "You just go with it. We appreciate people taking the time to come and comment."

Eric Vodden is a reporter for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat.

Comments at Marysville City Council meeting

Twenty-five people spoke for or against the Marysville ordinances during Tuesday night’s public hearing before the City Council.

Zachary Cross of Loma Rica, one of those behind an initiative to overturn Yuba County’s cultivation ordinance, praised the council for being “open-minded” about medical marijuana use.

“I hope you get a dispensary or two to finally get some tax revenues coming in,” he said. “Thank you for looking to the future instead of the past.”

Eric Lucas of Marysville told the council he uses medical marijuana to relieve pain.

“Cannabis users are people, too,” he said. “Most people don’t smoke it or don’t use it to get high.

“If your perception is that everybody smokes it to get high, it’s wrong.”

Lucas said placing additional costs on dispensaries — such as a requirement to pay the annual cost of a full-time police officer — will drive up the cost of medical marijuana.

“You are going to price cannabis so I can’t get it,” he said. “You are requiring them to do so many things that it will increase the cost.”

However, Gary Simpson told the council limiting marijuana is a matter of public safety. Simpson earlier identified himself as the brother of a Marysville man murdered during an alleged marijuana robbery.

“If we let people grow marijuana, they will get their doors kicked down,” Simpson said. “It’s not just about money for the city. It’s about the people who are paying your salaries.

“We really need to put the focus on public safety. That’s not what you are doing here.”

Frank Cecil of Marysville referred to written material he said outlines that marijuana is dangerous to the brains and long-term development of youth.

“There is no question about that anymore,” he said. “The true medical marijuana user is not the problem, but trying to separate the two is difficult and beyond the scope of what your police want to do.”

Yuba County Supervisor John Nicoletti outlined the county’s process of working with marijuana growers to develop a court-ordered cultivation compromise only to have growing “blow out of control.”

“It blew out of control because there is not one type of marijuana user,” he told the council. “Almost everybody focused on how to make a profit.”

Nicoletti said Yuba County’s initial less restrictive ordinance didn’t result in revenues for the county, but rather drove up costs and overwhelmed employees involved in enforcement.

“The cost will be much greater than the income,” he said.

Families Against Cannabis Trafficking, which supported a more restrictive marijuana cultivation ordinance in Yuba County, said in a Wednesday statement it is pleased with the growing ban in Marysville.

“However, their action to move forward with the establishment of two downtown commercial marijuana dispensaries and grow sites is saddening,” the statement said.

It refers to fears expressed during the public hearing that Marysville will become a destination for marijuana users.

“It is hard to watch Marysville commit slow suicide.”

— Eric Vodden