YV Voting June 2 To Be First In SBC To Permit Pot Shops

YUCCA VALLEY — (May 12) Though medical marijuana has been legal in the state of California since 1996, a majority of the state’s cities have held the line against permitting dispensaries to function within their boundaries. San Bernardino County has been at the forefront of this prohibitionist trend, and entrepreneurs seeking to brave the restrictions often attempt to operate underneath the radar, managing to stay in business long enough to generate some revenue, but pretty much inevitably becoming the target of code enforcement efforts that will put them out of business and impose fines on them, biting into or eating up their profits. Others have been prosecuted, by either state authorities or federal prosecutors, and in some cases have been imprisoned.
In Yucca Valley, the Alliance For Safe Access has overcome the resistance of the town’s political leadership and active Christian and conservative value advocates to place a measure before the voters calling for allowing two dispensaries to operate within town limits. Along the way, the movement has picked up some predictable opposition and some unlikely support.
Absentee ballots for the initiative, designated Measure X, have gone out to the nearly 3,000 of the town’s 9,940 voters who have requested them. The election will be held on June 2 at which the remaining voters will have the option of going to the polls. A vote in favor of Measure X will allow one dispensary in town for every 10,000 people living there. With a population of 20,700, two clinics selling cannabis will be allowed to operate.
Jason Elsasser, the leader of the Alliance for Safe Access of Yucca Valley, began circulating the election petition late last summer in a delayed reaction to the closure of a clinic that operated in town between 2008 and 2010. That clinic had gotten its operating charter from the city by applying for a business license as an “herbal shop.”
Upon town officials learning that the enterprise was a dispensary, they initiated efforts to close it but were met by the owner’s threat of litigation. The town and the clinic owner arrived at an agreement by which the owner was able to remain in business for a specified period. Before that deadline elapsed, the operation proved lucrative enough for the owner to reach his financial goals and he voluntarily closed.
In Yucca Valley, two of the most powerful political entities in town, the Reverend Roger Mayes and the Reverend Jerel Hagerman, have indicated their opposition to any effort to liberalize marijuana availability. They are capable of delivering a massive block of votes, consisting of those from their parishioners. Despite the zeal of Mayes and Hagerman and those likewise against the availability of the drug in Yucca Valley, Elsasser and other advocates for the availability of medical marijuana in that town effectively overran the town council’s procedural blockade of local marijuana clinics by getting the requisite number of voter signatures on the petition to direct the town council to either adopt a new code allowing dispensaries or put the matter to the ballot. The town council eventually acceded to the success of that initiative petition process, but in so doing altered the initiative from its original form. It is that altered version of the initiative that is on the ballot.
The council’s members are supported by Mayes and Hagerman, and it is an open question whether the opponents will deliver enough votes against Measure X to sway the election.
Advocates for the availability of medical marijuana asserted that there is considerable demand for the drug in Yucca Valley and that the town council, by its efforts to prevent the operation of dispensaries in town, has been forcing customers to purchase the product from criminals selling it illegally or in the alternative travel to other cities where clinics are permitted and where those municipalities have tapped the tax revenue available from the sales.
If Measure X is approved by the town’s voters, it would override the town’s current marijuana dispensary ban, creating licensing requirements and regulations for such clinics, making Yucca Valley the first of San Bernardino County’s municipalities to allow the legal operation of medical marijuana dispensaries. The shops would be limited to locating in industrial areas inside of town limits and could not be any more proximate than 600 feet from a school or a church.
Though the town council on balance is opposed to permitting the clinics, council member Robert Leone, a former police officer, favors them. He says he became convinced of the medical efficacy of the drug during his son’s battle with cancer. Earlier this year he made a motion calling for simply adopting the initiative as drafted but saw that motion die for the lack of a second, and the council voted to put the redrafted measure on the special election ballot for June 2.
Yucca Valley Planning Commissioner Jeff Drozd has publicly stated that he had a positive experience with Marinol, a synthesized derivative of cannabis that limited the nausea he experienced when he was undergoing treatment for cancer more than a decade ago.

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