Yucca Valley Voters Turn Down Initiative Allowing Operation Of Cannabis Clinics

YUCCA VALLEY — After a nearly ten months of building up the hopes of those embracing the concept of legalized marijuana being available in the town of Yucca Valley, Measure X, the initiative that would have allowed to cannabis dispensaries to operate in town, failed at the pools.
Measure X induced a relatively strong turnout at the polls, with 3,276 of the town’s voters, roughly one third of Yucca Valley’s registered voters, participating. Of those, 1,414 were in favor of the measure and 1,854 were opposed. That was a difference of 440 votes. After the initial tallying of votes was made, there were yet 323 mail-in ballots taken to the polling places that had not been counted along with 88 ballots that needed signature verification before they would be counted. Even if all of those 411 ballots were cast in favor of Measure X, the initiative would still fail. Thus, it appears the medical marijuana availability movement in Yucca Valley is, at least for the foreseeable future, stymied.
Measure X was qualified for the ballot by the Alliance for Safe Access of Yucca Valley, led by Jason Elsasser as the result of a petition circulating effort initiated at the end of last summer.
Elsasser and the Alliance undertook their effort after the closure of another clinic, which 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.
Measure X would have allowed one marijuana dispensary per every 10,000 residents in town limits. Yucca Valley has a population of 21,355. Under Measure X, the town would have been required to accept permit applications from anyone seeking to open a dispensary in Yucca Valley, but first preference would have gone to any company that held articles of incorporation, a seller’s permit and a license to sell nursery stock from the state prior to July 2, 2014. Applicants would also get preference if they had operated a medical marijuana dispensary in Yucca Valley within three years before January 1, 2015.
The town, through its municipal attorney, Lona Laymon, had added a host of standards to Measure X which were not contained in the original initiative circulated with the petition. As ultimately drafted, Measure X set a relatively exacting and high set of standards for the dispensaries, restricting them from operating without a security guard and closed-circuit video system on the premises and at any time earlier than 8 .a.m. or later than 8 p.m. or any closer than 600 feet from a church, school, child-care facility or any other place where children gather. Patrons would not have been permitted to loiter around the facilities and would have been required to leave immediately after getting their marijuana. Measure X was more restrictive than other initiative-linked standards proposed in other San Bernardino County cities.
In the aftermath of Measure X’s failure, advocates for the availability of medical marijuana were yet maintaining that there is considerable demand for medical marijuana in Yucca Valley and that the continuing ban on its legal access in town is forcing customers to purchase the product from criminals selling it illegally or travel to other cities where clinics are permitted and where those municipalities have tapped into the tax revenue available from the sales.

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