Fillmore won’t budge on marijuana-business ban

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The Fillmore City Council voted Tuesday — for the fourth time in two years — to ban all medical marijuana business activity within city limits.

Fillmore first passed a ban in early 2016 on all sale, delivery or cultivation of medical marijuana, beyond the amounts patients can grow for themselves under state law. The City Council reaffirmed that policy later in 2016, and again in 2017, and also passed a similar ban on commercial cultivation and sale of recreational marijuana

The measure before the council on Tuesday proposed lifting the ban on deliveries of medical marijuana, but not allowing storefront dispensaries, and perhaps permitting as many as three medical marijuana warehouses in town. It came in response to appeals from medical marijuana patients who appeared before the council in November, asking for some legal way to obtain their medicine in the city.

The council went along with their requests to reconsider, but on Tuesday the vote was 5-0 to keep the ban on deliveries in place.

“I think that medical and recreational marijuana will come to Fillmore, but I don’t really think it’s the time,” Councilman Mark Austin said. “I’d rather wait and see what happens in communities like Ojai and Port Hueneme,” two Ventura County cities that have decided to allow medical marijuana dispensaries.

Fillmore Mayor Manuel Minjares has been the most receptive to the concerns of medical marijuana advocates, and last year he cast the only vote in favor of allowing medical marijuana cultivation. On Tuesday, he said he thinks marijuana is misclassified under federal law as a Schedule 1 substance, one that the federal government believes has no medical uses.

“I don’t believe the method we’ve been using to date, which is having it unregulated, has helped us,” Minjares said. “I think it needs to be regulated, it needs to be studied and we need a culture shift to be able to say to our children this is what this plant is, this is how it helps our society and this is how it damages our society.”

Still, Minjares voted with his colleagues to keep the city’s policy against deliveries. He said after the vote that he did so because he doesn’t think the time is right yet for Fillmore to allow any marijuana business activity.

The issue has been the biggest one in Fillmore politics for the past two years. In 2016, the city was almost evenly split on Proposition 64, which legalized marijuana for recreational purposes in California; there were eight more “no” votes than “yes” votes for the measure in Fillmore.

Dozens of anti-marijuana activists have come to City Hall every time the subject is on the council’s agenda — and sometimes when it isn’t. On Tuesday, they had signs and stickers that said, “No Marijuana Business.” The proposal to allow as many as three warehouses for medical marijuana drew the fiercest opposition, but those in the audience were also opposed to any loosening of the delivery rules.

“If one type of marijuana business is allowed here, others will follow,” Fillmore resident Joan Archer said. “Please do not destroy our faith in you and our faith in the democratic process by overturning your vote.”

Fillmore has gone further than most Ventura County cities in banning deliveries. Some of the other cities that do not allow storefront dispensaries do allow deliveries, including Ventura, Oxnard and Camarillo.

The effect of Fillmore’s delivery ban isn’t clear. Many businesses claim to deliver medical marijuana anywhere in California, and cities such as Fillmore that ban deliveries don’t appear to be enforcing those rules. Ventura County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Dave Wareham, the chief of Fillmore’s police force, said he wasn’t aware of anyone being cited for violating Fillmore’s delivery ban since it was passed in 2016.

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