The Fresno City Council will kick off the new fiscal year with an old controversy – recreational marijuana dispensaries.
I don’t expect city policy to change… at least not yet.
As we all know, the council on June 22 gave its OK to an ordinance that bans recreational marijuana dispensaries. The vote was 4-3. Council Members Steve Brandau, Garry Bredefeld, Luis Chavez and Paul Caprioglio voted for the ban.
Dozens of people showed up at the Council Chamber to express their views on the issue.
But the council on June 22 merely approved the introduction of the ban.
This kind of formal lawmaking is a two-step process. The council at a later date must return to the bill and approve its adoption. (Mayor Lee Brand supports the ban, so there’s almost no chance of a mayoral veto.)
The date for adoption of the ban on marijuana dispensaries was supposed to be June 29. The ban was on the June 29 agenda, under the consent calendar. The consent calendar is where the council approves a bunch of seemingly routine matters with a single vote.
But for some reason, the council moved the entire June 29 agenda to a special meeting on June 26. If I understand City Hall procedures correctly, four days between the introduction and adoption of an ordinance is too fast.
Bottom line: The council on June 26 learned that it would have to “continue” the dispensary-ban issue until a later date. The City Clerk’s website says the next council meeting is July 20 (the new fiscal year began July 1).
It doesn’t happen often, but I’ve seen the council change its mind between the introduction and adoption of a bill. The public always gets a chance to comment on consent calendar items, whether they’re pulled by a council member for general discussion or not.
Perhaps on July 20 (should that be the meeting for the adoption vote – we won’t know until the agenda is posted) we’ll get an abridged version of the June 22 public commentary on the wisdom/folly of regulated recreational marijuana dispensaries in Fresno.
I’ve already gone of the record as saying City Hall should not get involved in the encouragement (through formal regulation) of marijuana dispensaries. As I said to a friend in an email, this isn’t an issue that can be settled for all time through rational argument. There are too many inconsistencies on both sides. At the same time, a decision must be made by our elected leaders. City Hall’s “no” to recreational dope is the best decision.
I’m also one to dismiss the notion that the council majority on June 22 somehow betrayed democracy with its vote.
The advocates of this notion point to the passage last November of Proposition 64. A majority of California voters said yes to Prop. 64. A majority of Fresno County voters said no to Prop. 64. A majority of City of Fresno voters said yes to Prop. 64.
But the majority didn’t say yes to recreational marijuana. The majority said yes to what was in the proposition. And the proposition gave the final say on marijuana dispensaries to elected officials in local jurisdictions.
If the authors of Prop. 64 didn’t want local jurisdictions to have this authority, then they should have kept such language out of the proposed law.
People in November knew what they were voting on. Those who voted for Prop. 64 wanted the fate of marijuana dispensaries in individual jurisdictions left to the wisdom of local elected leaders.
Brandau, Bredefeld, Chavez and Caprioglio – all four of them – faced the voters in 2016. All won their elections by comfortable (if not huge) margins.
Democracy in practice takes many forms. It’s safe to say Brandau, Bredefeld, Chavez and Caprioglio served both their district constituencies and Fresno as a whole wisely and nobly. (A point made in cogent terms by CVObserver Publisher Alex Tavlian in a recent Twitter war.)
I do not suggest that the three council members who voted on June 22 against the ban – Council President Clint Olivier and Council Members Oliver Baines and Esmeralda Soria – were foolish or irresponsible. I know from experience that they always put the best interests of Fresno first and foremost when discharging their duty.
I gather from media reports that Olivier on June 22 made strong points in favor of authorizing the dispensaries. Olivier had previously expressed his views to me. For starters, Clint told me, there’s no use in ignoring reality. And the reality is that recreational marijuana is here to stay. Government doesn’t work if it ignores the real world.
Olivier is right.
That brings me to the sentiment at the core of this piece’s beginning.
I expect the council to eventually approve the adoption of the dispensary ban. I expect recreational marijuana dispensaries to be legal and common in Fresno in the near future. And I expect the result to be something neither side of the argument ever expected.