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Tulare City Council pushes for recreational marijuana measure on November 2020 ballot

Tulare City Council pushes for recreational marijuana measure on November 2020 ballot

Proposition 64 legalizing recreational marijuana was passed by a majority of Californians in 2016, but failed by 53% in Tulare

By Luis Hernandez @TheSunGazette

TULARE – Tulare residents will vote on recreational marijuana sales – again.

The Tulare City Council asked city administrators to prepare guidelines to consider putting the sale of recreational marijuana before Tulare voters on the 2020 November ballot as well as the sales tax percentage on the cannabis sales.

“This will give the community at large the opportunity to make a decision,” Tulare Vice Mayor Dennis Mederos said.

Council member Greg Nunley also favored having voters weigh in on the issue.

“I will not take the vote out of the voters’ hands,” Nunley said.

The council’s request for voting guidelines, a move that pushes Tulare to become the latest local municipality in approving the sale of recreational marijuana, since the passage of Proposition 64 in 2016. Statewide 57% of voters approved Prop. 64, but it failed by 10% in Tulare County.

Still, Councilmember Carlton Jones said recreational marijuana sales may get local support, falling on track with elections in Colorado and Washington state.

“It’s trending in the direction of support,” he said.

According to the Tulare County elections’ office, of the 21,600 Tulare voters registered for the November 2016 election, 15,938 ballots cast for a 73.79 turnout. More than 8,200 were “no” votes, or 53.88 percent of cast votes, compared with 7,075 “yes” votes.

If approved in Tulare, recreational marijuana sales would be permitted in five cities in the county. Farmersville, Lindsay, Porterville and Woodlake have already approved the sale of recreational marijuana as a way to increase tax revenue. Visalia and Exeter have rejected such proposals.

Farmersville, Lindsay and Woodlake were the lone municipalities in Tulare County where Prop. 64 garnered a majority. Woodlake is the lone city to have a dispensary doing business after the approval.

Tony Caudle, who works at the Woodlake dispensary said he would like to open a dispensary in Tulare – his hometown.

“I just want to come home,” he said.

Outside Tulare County, Hanford and Coalinga have also approved recreational marijuana dispensaries, said Mario Zamora, Tulare city attorney.

Around the Valley, permitting recreational marijuana sales is seen as way to address municipal budget shortfalls.

Back to Tulare

Those who oppose permitting recreational marijuana sales worry about the effect the plant may have on school-aged children and the possibility that local drug addiction may increase.

Sabino Martinez, who addressed the Tulare council, said considering approval of recreational marijuana is shortsighted as only tax revenue is being considered. Martinez said statewide statistics show there is an increase in suspensions, expulsions and arrests related to drug possession in school-aged children. Tulare’s numbers fall right along with the state trend, Martinez said.

“We are failing to incorporate what are the unintended consequences,” he said.

Zamora, in a answering questions from Tulare council members, said Woodlake hadn’t seen any significant crime-related incidents at that city’s operating dispensary.

Caudle said the dispensary has a good working relationship with law enforcement, who have access to video surveillance from the site.

Immediate action

While waiting for the 2020 general election, council took action, expected to become effective soon and related to the two dispensaries in Tulare and businesses delivering marijuana.

First, council asked administrators to prepare an ordinance to waive off limiting the number of dispensaries based on population. Second, council wanted to establish a mandate ordering businesses delivering marijuana in Tulare to obtain a business license. In obtaining the license, businesses would be easily identifiable to police. The businesses would also be required to pay a business license fee.

Local dispensaries have stopped delivering marijuana, pending a case in state court.

Caudle said there are 60 businesses delivering marijuana in Tulare.

Tulare Mayor Jose Sigala said Davis, a Northern California city located next to Sacramento, requires marijuana delivery businesses to pay an $8,000 annual fee and provide access to financial records to city administrators. The Tulare dispensaries pay $1,400 a year.

Zamora said the proposed ordinance would comply with local taxation.

Sigala said council will have an additional recreational marijuana sales work session later on this summer.

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