Santa Clarita Drug Counselors Seek Answers To Marijuana Questions

A majority of California voters approved Proposition 64, which legalized the possession of recreational marijuana, in November. That much is understood.

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However after that, things become murky.

The best way to explain the situation from Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth’s point of view is, “It’s nuanced,” which is accurate, if not an understatement.

Smyth recognizes the concern, but also notes that as a business-friendly city, Santa Clarita also has a legal obligation to recognize the will of California, where businesses are operating within the law as a good actor and if, in fact, the city can create a policy to protect public safety while respecting the right of businesses working within the confines of community guidelines and the law.

“What I’ve tried to articulate to (City Council) and staff is that this issue is much more nuanced than I think people believe,” Smyth said. “The industry is much more than just retail and recreational cannabis use.”

However, the complications begin for many because a statewide legalization policy puts the state, as voters have done in several recent ballot measures, at direct odds with the federal government.

Another challenge: There was no anticipated framework in place, or guidelines, for cities to enact the measure, so barring guidance from Los Angeles County, or the state, the city of Santa Clarita enacted a two-month moratorium, which was later extended to November.

This was an option to give cities a chance to figure things out on their own.

“I hope that we can have a robust discussion about what Santa Clarita can do going forward,” Smyth said.

To that end, a pair of counselors who’ve worked extensively with addiction in Santa Clarita, are working on a study to provide the city of Santa Clarita with data they hope will help in that decision.

Bob Sharits and Brenda Way, who run The Way Out Recovery in Santa Clarita, are looking at quantifying some of the research as far as the positive benefits of medicinal use, and how it can be responsibly regulated, addressing community concern, as well as the potential therapeutic benefits.

“What we’ve noticed,” Sharits said, “is that there are people who are utilizing the benefits of CBD oil, and are utilizing that for various disorders and ailments, but they’re not talking publicly about it because of the stigma.”

How widespread is the legitimate usage and how it’s helping are some of the aspects of the issue they’re looking at, they said.

They’re also trying to be “100 percent transparent” about their aims for responsible regulation. Their goal is not to in any way promote medicinal or recreational marijuana — they want to look at where it is being used legitimately, how it’s helping, and whether that can be managed within a responsible framework.

“Everything comes back to a question of, we’re talking about a medical recommendation,” Way said, but also recognizing in that discussion, “we’re always talking about the ever-changing morality of the issue.”

In the coming weeks, KHTS is looking at the issue, along with the research being gathered for presentation to Santa Clarita City Council, as part of an ongoing series. Some of the issues being discussed include: CBD vs. THC; the challenges legalization has presented in other parts of the country; community reaction; and some of the other “nuances” surrounding the issue.

Anyone who would like more information about the studies being conducted, or clinicians interested in the research, can contact Sharits at


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