Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld says that recreational marijuana shops have no place in the city, even after California voters approved Proposition 64 last fall.
Bredefeld said he expects his measure will be taken up by the Fresno City Council at a special meeting on March 30. That, he said, will allow time for his council colleagues and Mayor Lee Brand to review his proposal.
Whether Bredfeld – who said he never has smoked marijuana or used any illegal drugs – will gain enough votes to pass an outright ban on pot shops remains to be seen. At least two council members said they have questions and will wait to see more details about Bredefeld’s proposal before making up their minds. Brand said he is “inclined to support a ban.”
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A working draft of Bredefeld’s resolution calls for amending Fresno’s zoning laws “to formally address marijuana operations, dispensaries and sales by prohibiting them in all zone districts within the city.”
Bredefeld originally planned to make his pitch to the council next week. “I’m ready and prepared to deal with this issue right now,” he said. “I know exactly where I stand, and I don’t support recreational marijuana dispensaries in our city.”
Proposition 64 passed statewide, with 57.1 percent of voters – just shy of 8 million – casting “yes” votes. “But just because something passed doesn’t mean there are no consequences or ramifications,” Bredefeld said. The ballot measure came up short in Fresno County, but voters in the city of Fresno narrowly favored it. Bredefeld’s Council District 6, in northeast Fresno, voted heavily against the proposition.
43.4Percent of District 6 voters who voted for Proposition 64 in November
51.4Percent of Fresno voters citywide who voted for Proposition 64
47.1Percent of Fresno County voters who voted for Proposition 64
The state law would allow marijuana businesses to begin operating on Jan. 1, 2018, unless city or county governments specifically enact laws to prohibit them. “That’s why my effort is to ban them now,” Bredefeld said.
Bredefeld, a clinical psychologist, said he sees firsthand in his practice the damaging cognitive, emotional and psychological effects that marijuana can have on people. “I’ve spent 30 years treating people with drug-addiction issues,” he said. “I understand the effects that marijuana has. For some people – not all, but some – marijuana is a gateway to other drugs.”
Despite Proposition 64’s provisions forbidding marijuana sales to anyone under 21, Bredefeld said the law “was a terrible message throughout our state that recreational marijuana is a good thing. … It’s destructive to our youth. I’m concerned that it sends the message that it’s OK to smoke marijuana and get loaded.”
While marijuana cultivation, possession and use remain illegal under federal laws, Proposition 64 legalizes growing, distributing, selling and using marijuana, and allows possession of up to one ounce of pot by people age 21 and older. It also establishes mechanisms for regulating, licensing and taxing marijuana businesses. The law allows cities and counties to adopt their own rules, including outright bans on commercial cultivation, outdoor growing and sales.
In addition to existing local and state sales taxes, marijuana sales would be subject to an excise tax of 15 percent, while cultivation would be taxed at a rate of $9.25 per ounce of flowers (the potent bud portion of the plant) and $2.75 per ounce for the less potent leaves.
Bredefeld discounted the prospects of increased revenue from taxation of marijuana businesses. “I’m not interested in arguments that it will bring drug money to municipal governments,” he said. “Any revenues will be offset by the need for more law enforcement, more drug problems, more counseling, more damage from accidents (and) more hospital emergency room treatment needs.”
“I don’t know anything about it yet. I want to read it and I’ll have to think about it,” Olivier said. “I understand that there are in the neighborhood of 30 (medical marijuana) dispensaries operating in the city, and about 60 delivery services … but there’s already a ban in place.”
“It seems that no matter what the government does to prohibit drugs, people find a way around it,” Olivier added. “One of the questions I’ll have is, how will this prohibition succeed where every other prohibition in the U.S. has failed?”
Caprioglio said he and other council members will want more information before making up their minds. “We want to make the best decision rather than just say, ‘Ban it,’ ” he said. “I want to look at all sides of the issue and make the best decision for the city of Fresno. … And we’re not on a time frame that mandates a fast action or decision.”
Bredefeld said one reason he asked to postpone consideration from March 9 to March 30 was because Brand asked him to delay.
“I’ve voted consistently against marijuana dispensaries, so I’m inclined to support a ban,” Brand said. “However, I also think it’s important to fully research this issue and give everyone on the council the chance to discuss it thoroughly before coming to a final decision.”