City leaders in Solvang, California on Monday punted on a decision over whether or not to permit recreational cannabis sales in their jurisdiction.
The Santa Maria Times reports that members of the city council in Solvang, which is located about 130 miles up the coast from Los Angeles, “voted 3-2 to seek further law enforcement input before considering an update to city code that would allow recreational use cannabis sales within city limits.”
“It sounds to me that the cannabis is ubiquitous. It’s everywhere. It’s not whether we’re going to allow it. It’s allowed. It’s whether we’re going to agree to enable a retail location in our city. That’s what we’re deciding,” said city council member Elizabeth Orona, as quoted by the Santa Maria Times.
Although voters in California approved a measure in 2016 legalizing recreational cannabis use and sales in the state, Solvang opted out.
In 2018, the city council there approved an ordinance banning the sale of recreational cannabis.
Medical cannabis, which has been legal statewide in California since voters there legalized in 1996, is permitted in Solvang.
The city council in Solvang “adopted an ordinance [in 2018] allowing medicinal cannabis retail sales in the city to anyone holding a cannabis card,” according to the Santa Maria Times, although the “number and location of medical cannabis facilities were restricted, and requirements for operation were delineated including security measure requirements, and a local tax rate of 5% to 10%.”
Some members of the Solvang City Council objected to the delay, arguing that it is time for the city to start collecting tax revenue from cannabis sales that has been lost to neighbroing communities where recreational cannabis sales are permitted.
“I’m not a big fan of pot. I wasn’t when it was medicinal. But the voters approved this in 2016. … As long as people are going from Solvang to Lompoc to get this, then Solvang is losing out on the tax dollar,” council member Robert Clarke said, as quoted by the Santa Maria Times.
Council member Claudia Orona, meanwhile, contended that pot should not be treated differently than other vices.
“I always find it interesting that people will bring up health and safety issues with cannabis, but they never bring that up when another wine tasting room or another bar is opening,” Orona said, as quoted by the newspaper.
“This is not a matter of cannabis being available in our community. It is available widely by either people traveling to dispensaries or going on websites and apps and ordering and getting it (delivered) to home,” Orona added.
California’s legal cannabis industry has fallen on hard times, as the illicit market continues to chew into sales, leading to falling tax revenue.
In September, the state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, signed a bill intended to expand the legal cannabis market, by creating “a process for California to enter into agreements with other states to allow cannabis transactions with entities outside California.”
The governor’s office said at the time that, as part of the 2022 budget, Newsom also “signed legislation to provide tax relief to consumers and the cannabis industry; support equity businesses; strengthen enforcement tools against illegal cannabis operators; bolster worker protections; expand access to legal retail; and protect youth, environmental and public safety programs funded by cannabis tax revenue.”
“For too many Californians, the promise of cannabis legalization remains out of reach,” said Newsom. “These measures build on the important strides our state has made toward this goal, but much work remains to build an equitable, safe and sustainable legal cannabis industry. I look forward to partnering with the Legislature and policymakers to fully realize cannabis legalization in communities across California.”