Upland , California – Councilman questions dispensary report 


Councilman Gino Filippi wants to know why a report about medical marijuana dispensaries failed to consider options to regulate them or present a recommendation more favorable toward the city.  A medical marijuana initiative, which would amend the city’s current ban on dispensaries as well as mobile dispensaries and allow three in the northwest part of town, raised legal questions for Upland.  The City Council subsequently voted earlier this month to place the controversial medical marijuana dispensary ballot measure in a general election in 2016 rather than hold a special election. 

But in a report to the council, which was requested nearly a month before, the only option for the city was to draft an ordinance that would affirm the existing ban. “In the spirit of transparency, ethics and fiscal responsibility, I’d like some clarification at the next meeting on how we arrive from minutes that were very vague to direction to staff and the law firm to be producing ordinances,” asked Filippi, who was opposed to the council’s decision. Filippi had requested the report for today’s meeting, but the item was not placed on the agenda. Mayor Ray Musser said he did not have an issue with the report’s recommendations.

“We were presented with what was requested,” he said Friday afternoon.

Musser said the council’s decision to place the medical marijuana initiative on the general election ballot in 2016 gives the city time to consider all its options.

Ultimately, the council did not vote on the proposed city ordinance. Interim City Attorney Richard Adams told the council the alternative initiative would have affirmed the current ban in the city.

“We prepared that as an alternative because it was our understanding that’s the alternative that the city requested,” he said.

Filippi has also questioned whether the city failed to work with proponents of the measure prior to the notice of intent being brought to the city. Filippi said the city missed a chance to draft an ordinance that could have helped it recoup costs for enforcement and education. 

The city has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting medical marijuana dispensaries, which are prohibited by its zoning code.

Craig Beresh, director with California Cannabis Coalition, said he went up to Musser before the process even started and handed him a copy of the initiative and “asked you to look at it, and you laughed at me and walked away. You were fully aware of this before it happened.”

Musser said he recalled that encounter with Beresh. Upland was not going to work out the details of the language of an ordinance because the system is not properly regulated. 

“We disagree there. They want us to agree to let them in. We’re saying we don’t want them in,” Musser said.

Many dispensaries, Musser said, operate solely on cash and have very little bookkeeping. 

“They don’t have any receipts. Until that changes, I wouldn’t look at it. The system needs to be fair and accountable and traceable,” Musser said.

Proponents brought its notice of intent to the city in September, and the city attorney then wrote the title and summary for it. 

Once the necessary signatures were gathered, the council needed to decide to adopt it as an ordinance or put it on the ballot, Adams said.

“You do not have the option to say ‘we’re not going to do anything with it,’ because you are mandated by the election code to do one of those two things,” he said.

But at the March 9 council meeting, resident and attorney Steve Wade said the council should have considered enacting a responsible medical marijuana ballot initiative. 

He criticized the city’s approach to the issue, adding he presented the council with a resolution similar to Santa Ana’s, which requires dispensaries pay 10 percent of their sales to the city. 

“I drafted a sample statute that you could have considered. I made it available for you. It took six hours, and yet you come up with a ban, a reaffirmation of a ban,” he said. 

Wade said the city is wasting financial resources trying keep dispensaries out of the city.

“You can collect 10 percent of the gross sales. That would fill a lot of potholes in the city, and that would more than pay for enforcement,” he said. “Your ban is ridiculous right now. … You need to act responsibly.” 

But Musser scoffed at the option, saying Upland is not Santa Ana.

“That mix is completely different than conservative Upland,” he said.

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