CA: Council To Weigh Final Decision On New Marijuana Rules

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With controversy sprouting, Hollister council members plan to move ahead on official consideration of a medicinal marijuana ordinance at their next meeting Monday.

The item is heading to Monday’s 6:30 p.m. agenda – 11 days after about 200 people packed the Veterans Memorial Building, with many sharing a range of views on marijuana regulations in Hollister.

That’s way ahead of the schedule preferred by Mayor Ignacio Velazquez – who wanted to hold several more public meetings before any possible votes – while one of the new regulations’ architects contends the timing gives residents another chance to speak their mind.

Councilmen Karson Klauer and Ray Friend have recommended elected officials consider a possible vote on prospective regulations at the next meeting, city officials confirmed to the Free Lance. Those two councilmen have made up a City of Hollister medicinal marijuana subcommittee, meaning they have researched the topic and formed proposed rules for the elected panel’s consideration.

Klauer acknowledged the topic has spurred a range of emotions among residents on both sides. The local ordinance allows dispensaries in places such as the downtown district, but it would bar them at least 600 feet from schools.

“No matter which side of the coin you fall on with the ordinance, you can’t help but feel emotional when you hear the arguments from both sides,” Klauer said of last week’s meeting.

Proposed rules have set off a range of concerns from vocal opponents – such as whether to allow dispensaries, possible dispensary caps and distances of those facilities from places where children congregate. There were plenty of medicinal marijuana supporters on hand at the Aug. 4 public hearing as well, city officials said. The commentary was pretty evenly split among the pro and con side, the mayor said Tuesday.

Klauer also spoke in an interview Tuesday and explained his reasoning for placing it on next Monday’s agenda. Klauer said he and Friend planned to use feedback from the previous town hall-style meeting to revise questioned ordinance language before Thursday, four days prior to the next council meeting. He said placing the ordinance consideration on the next agenda is “another opportunity” for council members to hear locals.

Klauer also called the prior Aug. 4 gathering a “great meeting” and said he’d “come a long way” from a month ago on his overall perspective. Additionally, he responded to criticism from Velazquez about the scheduled consideration coming so soon after the public hearing. Velazquez on Tuesday said he had hoped to hold “two or three” more public meetings on the marijuana issue before a final decision.

Council members voted June 20 on the first reading of a pot ordinance, so one more vote in support could all but end the debate.

“I think it’s a fair point that we need to make sure everybody’s heard out that’s been heard from,” Klauer said.

At the same time, Klauer noted that he has talked to some of the same people “four or five times now” on the pot topic.

“I’d like to move forward,” he said. “I know Councilmember Friend wants to move forward.”

Velazquez said he mostly has concerns about state issues and hopes to “slow down” the process before a final Jan. 1 deadline.

“You start by listening to the public, seeing what their needs are or why they’re for it or against it,” he said.

From a broader scope, considering legalization and dispensaries, Velazquez made his view clear.

“It’s been legal for 20 years,” he said.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Council To Weigh Final Decision On New Marijuana Rules
Author: Kollin Kosmicki
Contact: (831) 637-5566
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Website: Free Lance