City Council President Clint Olivier’s efforts to block a complete ban on commercial marijuana businesses in the city of Fresno fell short earlier this year. But as the council gets ready for its last meeting of the year on Thursday, Olivier is apparently ready to try once again to legalize distribution and sales.
Olivier is proposing a measure that, if approved by his council colleagues, could set the stage for overturning Fresno’s existing bans on both recreational and medical marijuana businesses. Olivier wants the council to adopt a resolution to begin the process of amending the city’s ordinances to allow and regulate marijuana “cultivation, manufacture, extraction, testing, distribution, delivery and/or medical dispensaries” in certain zone districts.
“The City Council wishes to allow marijuana businesses that intend to operate within the city to begin the application process with the (state) Bureau of Cannabis Control for a license while the city is engaged in the process of amending the zoning ordinance concerning marijuana activities,” the proposed resolution states.
Under Proposition 64, a statewide measure approved by voters in November 2016, marijuana possession and cultivation of up to six plants for personal use was legalized. In January, the state can begin issuing licenses for marijuana businesses, but it is up to cities and counties to determine how to regulate such businesses – or prohibit them outright – under local land-use rules. In September, the Fresno City Council finalized its own ordinance barring any recreational marijuana-related businesses from setting up shop anywhere in the city, with the exception of testing labs in industrial areas for which marijuana testing represents 20 percent or less of their business.
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The recreational marijuana ban was proposed by Councilman Garry Bredefeld and co-authored by Mayor Lee Brand. Bredefeld was joined by council members Steve Brandau, Paul Caprioglio and Luis Chavez in the 4-3 vote to pass the ban in September. Olivier and council members Esmeralda Soria and Oliver Baines voted against it.
If Olivier’s new resolution passes, marijuana businesses could begin the state application process for commercial operations: “The city may immediately begin to issue letters to marijuana businesses to apply for a temporary state license.”
Fresno has had a de facto prohibition on medical marijuana dispensaries on the books for more than a decade. The ordinance technically allows medical marijuana dispensaries in areas that are zoned for medical offices – but only if they comply with both state and federal laws. And while medical marijuana has been legal in California since voters passed the Compassionate Use Act in 1996, marijuana for any purpose remains illegal under federal law.
Olivier has argued that marijuana use is so widespread that a ban on sales is nearly meaningless. In a parliamentary maneuver during a council meeting in June, Olivier sought to head off Bredefeld’s motion to craft an ordinance to ban recreational marijuana businesses by instead offering a motion to allow sales, delivery and other businesses. That effort ultimately failed.
During and after volatile council debates in June and August, however, Brand and council members signaled their willingness to consider revisiting the ban on medical marijuana. Olivier scored a partial victory in August when the council agreed to allocate $100,000 for a consultant to help the city study how other cities handle the regulation of medical and recreational marijuana use, sales and cultivation, as well examine the revenue potential from licensing and taxing cultivation and sales.
If you go
The Fresno City Council will meet at 8:30 a.m. Thursday in the second-floor council chamber at Fresno City Hall, 2600 Fresno St. The meeting is open to the public.