2017-07-13 / Front Page

City’s proposed pot policy leaves both sides feeling burned

Council suggests allowing one dispensary with tight restrictions
By Becca Whitnall

“Baby steps” appears to best describe the pace city leaders are comfortable with when it comes to allowing commercial marijuana activity in Thousand Oaks.

“Many of us mentioned the words ‘baby steps’ during the last meeting and during previous meetings where we’ve discussed the topic,” Councilmember Joel Price said in an interview. “I think because it’s so new, we’re all a little afraid, and rightfully so, because we’ve seen failure of this in other cities.”

Price, a retired City of Los Angeles police officer, joined fellow council members in a 5-0 vote June 27 directing city staff to draft a policy to allow a single medical marijuana dispensary to open in an industrial area of T.O. City staff members are considering the best way to determine who will receive the single permit and will present their preference with their proposed ordinance.

If the final draft of the law is approved later this year as expected, T.O. would become the third city in Ventura County, after Port Hueneme and Ojai, to permit some form of commercial cannabis activity.

While some residents have criticized the council’s recommendation as being overly restrictive—requiring, for instance, that customers call ahead and make an appointment before purchasing their marijuana—Price said he felt it was a fair compromise.

“I think one will be enough—it will have to be enough,” he told the Acorn. “If there are any impacts . . . I’d rather deal with them at a single location than multiple locations in the city.”

But local medical marijuana advocate Joe Kyle said he’s concerned that the city’s proposed one-dispensary policy will create a government-mandated monopoly that will prevent the kind of safe access the council says it wants to allow. He’s pushing for the city to allow three.

“Ojai has a population of 7,600 people and they are allowing three dispensaries and three delivery services, but Thousand Oaks, with a population of 129,000, is only going to have one (dispensary) and no delivery?” he said. “All the patients from the city plus Simi and Moorpark (where dispensaries have not been approved) will come to the Thousand Oaks dispensary, and how long are those lines going to be?”

In addition, Kyle said, no competition means the owners of the dispensary can hike their prices, which may lead cannabis patients to continue doing what they’ve been doing for the past 20 years: going to the San Fernando Valley to get their pot or simply buying from the black market.

“(Patients) are just not going to use it, and the whole point of the entity—to provide safe, regulated medicine—is gone,” he said.

Other residents also expressed their disappointment with the council’s June 27 recommendation—but for different reasons.

Lori Robinson, who attributes her son’s 2014 suicide to marijuana psychosis, said she wishes the council had simply voted to keep its long-standing ban on dispensaries in place. Robinson spoke against medical marijuana at the June 27 hearing, saying it was to blame for her son’s downward spiral.

“I think the general public, including the council and state legislators, do not understand or fathom what I call ‘the new marijuana,’” she said in an interview. “I respect the council and they said they are not (allowing a dispensary) for revenue and I believe them, but I think Rob Mc- Coy has really done his research and is right to ask about studies on marijuana psychosis.”

Though he voted in favor of allowing a dispensary, McCoy told the Acorn he was most concerned with allowing patients with legitimate medical issues access to cannabidiol medication, or CBD, rather than THC.

CBDs are non-psychoactive, or less psychoactive, than THC, meaning they don’t give people the “stoned” feeling. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the primary psychoactive compound of cannabis.

“I have personal stories of congregants who have found CBD to be the solution to chronic illness, and I have firsthand account witness to the benefits,” said McCoy, who serves as pastor of Godspeak Calvary Chapel in Newbury Park. “I’m not interested in our city benefiting from recreational use.”

Price said he thinks the council is doing the right thing by being cautious and wanting to keep a tight grip on the local marijuana industry.

“We are not going to have one of those clinics that I saw so very often in the City of Los Angeles,” he said. “There will be no large green neon signs or green crosses and, more importantly, there won’t be people going through a turnstile operation, because we are not the place for some 18-year-old who conned some doctor into believing he has insomnia.”

Still, Price indicated that if things go well, he would be open to revisiting the policy.

“Whether or not there will be only one for all time, I can’t answer that now,” he said. “We started off with only allowing (purchase) by appointment only, but I could see at some point, if everything goes as it should, not the way it can, I could see that relaxed—and we could do that incrementally too.”

Staff members expect to bring the ordinance to the council in the fall.

Return to top