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Go slowly when it comes to allowing marijuana businesses, Oxnard Police Chief Scott Whitney advises the City Council.
Steve Byerly

When it comes to relaxing marijuana restrictions in light of the passage of Proposition 64, the Oxnard City Council wants to go slowly.

During a discussion at Tuesday night’s meeting, most of the council members sounded reluctant to invite commercial marijuana businesses or cultivation into the city.

Go slowly, Police Chief Scott Whitney advised. If the city wanted to allow certain types of marijuana businesses, they should be restricted to a certain area of the city, Whitney said.

“Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean the city has to blaze the trail on this,” Whitney said.

Voters in November passed a ballot initiative legalizing recreational marijuana use in California. But cities still have the ability to place restrictions or ban marijuana businesses.

On Tuesday, the council mulled its marijuana regulation and discussed whether to change it. Existing policies ban medical marijuana dispensaries and outdoor cultivation.

Councilwoman Carmen Ramirez said she was conflicted because she understands there’s crime tied to pot businesses, but there are patients who rely on medical marijuana.

“I’d like to see something very narrowly defined so people with true medical needs can get it,” Ramirez said.

More than a dozen speakers addressed the council on marijuana. Most were in support of allowing dispensaries and cultivation.

Yvonne Green, founder of a Malibu marijuana collective, said there are already pot businesses in Oxnard operating underground.

“It’s time to bring them out of the shadows,” she said.

Steve Nash, another speaker, said: “We should permit, regulate and tax the heck out of this. Oxnard would be foolish not to take advantage of this cash crop.”

The tax revenue argument didn’t appeal much to the council.

“I don’t buy that this is an economic salvation for this city,” Ramirez said.

Councilman Bryan MacDonald said any tax revenues the city would generate could be spent dealing with ancillary problems related to pot businesses.

When looking at Denver and how that city has dealt with marijuana legalization, Whitney told the council there has been an increase in the homeless population, marijuana use in schools and hospitalizations related to marijuana. Whitney said those trends could repeat in Oxnard with widespread permitting of marijuana businesses.

The council did not make any final decision; the discussion was meant to give city staff members direction on proposed regulations. Other than supporting a “go-slow approach” the council members provided few details on what kind of restrictions they would support.

Councilman Bert Perello sounded the most supportive of allowing marijuana businesses in the city.

“I’m in favor of a dispensary,” Perello said. “I’m not looking at this as a cash cow for the city. I’m looking at this as: voters approved this.”

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