Upland Calls For Report To See If Cannabis Initiative Can Be Postponed To 2016

UPLAND–(February 9) While acknowledging that proponents of an initiative to have Upland permit three medical marijuana clinics to operate in a confined area along the north side of Foothill Boulevard on the city’s extreme west end have succeeded in forcing the issue to a vote of city residents, the city council this week voted by a 3-2 margin to delay on scheduling that election to see if a technical detail in the initiative will require that the vote come next year rather than this year. The ordinance calls for permitting three such establishments along Foothill below Cable Airport between Monte Vista Avenue and Airport Drive while requiring each applicant to put up $75,000 to cover the city’s costs in processing the permit.
Initiative advocates include California Cannabis Coalition President Craig Beresh and Tropical Lei strip club owner Randy Welty, who is a board member of the California Cannabis Coalition and full or part owner in at least 52 marijuana clinics throughout the state. Between October and January those working with them collected 6,865 signatures on the initiative petitions, 5,736 of which were deemed by the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters to be valid signatures of registered voters in Upland. That number exceeds the 15 percent of registered voters in the city needed to force the city to hold a special election for the initiative, which city clerk Stephanie Mendenhall said would cost the city roughly $180,000.
While two of the council’s members – Debbie Stone and Gino Filippi – have said they think it best to let the issue go to a vote without entailing any further delay or expense beyond the cost of the election for the city, their three council colleagues – Mayor Ray Musser and council members Carol Timm and Glenn Bozar – are philosophically opposed to allowing cannabis collectives to operate in Upland. They were intrigued by a theory put forth by city attorney Richard Adams, which holds that if the $75,000 mandated by the initiative to be collected by the city for the processing of the permits actually exceeds the costs of background checks, inspections and clerical work on the paperwork, then the $75,000 is to be deemed a tax. Following Adams’ logic to its conclusion, an initiative involving a tax must be held during a general election rather than a special election, under the state’s constitution.
The council voted 3-2, with Musser, Timm and Bozar prevailing, to have staff and Adams study the issue and file a report. It is anticipated that if the report finds that the $75,000 is greater than the city’s costs on each permit application, the council will postpone the election until the general municipal election Upland has next scheduled in November 2016.
This could be a setback for the initiative proponents, who are counting on being able to network among cannabis aficionados using social media and word of mouth and other means to drive them to the polls in a special election, where voter turnout is traditionally lighter than in general elections. The initiative’s opponents believe that the majority of Upland residents are opposed to the initiative and the measure will lose if the vote takes place during a normally scheduled election.
Before the council’s vote, Beresh appealed to the council to show compassion for patients who suffer from conditions that marijuana can alleviate, and he said that it is “time to stop wasting the city’s money.”
Beresh’s reference was to over $500,000 in legal bills the city has accrued in court efforts to keep marijuana dispensary owners from defying the city’s ban on such uses. Despite that effort, at least 14 dispensaries are now open within the city.
Beresh’s sentiments were echoed by councilman Filippi, who said the city’s “ban has been a failure.”
Upland resident Warren Bowers, however, said the initiative as drafted would allow the compassion Beresh requested to be exploited.
“Two percent of medical marijuana users are in fact seriously ill,” Bowers said. “The other 98 percent of medical marijuana users are using it to get high. With three dispensaries next to a strip club,” Bowers continued, “you need to know what liability you will have and what it will cost the taxpayers if you approve it.”
Marjorie Mikels, an attorney with an office in downtown Upland, noted that the city has failed to effectively enforce the ban it has.
“What I want to know is where are the police?” she said. “It is illegal for those shops to be operating.”
Councilwoman Timm said she believed medical marijuana had legitimate therapeutic uses, but that it should be dispensed from a licensed pharmacy.
Councilman Bozar called the initiative flawed and poorly written. He said he objected to “the way the ballot measure is being forced on us, to do what the applicant wants.”

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