By Ed Martin, Editor

The Lemoore City Council gave a big thumb up to a local ordinance designed to prohibit marijuana cultivation, delivery and dispensaries within the city limits - and a possible thumb down to California’s progressive trend toward regarding the recreational and medicinal use of marijuana favorably. Councilmembers voted Tuesday night 4-1 to effectively prohibit such use within the city limits of Lemoore. Only Councilmember Billy Siegel voted against the ordinance.

In October, Governor Jerry Brown signed the “Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act into state law, which became effective on January 1, 2016. The new law contains provisions that govern the cultivating, processing, transporting, testing, and distributing of medical marijuana to qualified patients throughout the state.

The same act also contains provisions allowing local governments, like Lemoore, to prohibit marijuana cultivation, processing, delivery, and dispensaries with passage of local ordinances.

California has long been a haven for medical marijuana, ever since voters passed Proposition 215, which allowed ill Californians, under the care of a physician, to legally possess, use, and cultivate marijuana for medical purposes. In 2013, the California Legislature adopted further legislation (SB 420, Medical Marijuana Program) which permits qualified patients and their primary caregivers to associate collectively or cooperatively to cultivate marijuana for medical purposes.

Federal law, despite popular support for the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Oregon, still will subject states to prosecution under federal statutes; however, the federal government has recently declined to enforce the law.

Lemoore had been in the news recently when a New York based magazine, “High Times” was rebuffed in its effort to sponsor the “First Annual Central California Medical Cannabis Cup” at the local Lemoore Raceway in October.

City officials, denied the magazine a permit based on the organization’s inability to meet the city’s stringent requirements for holding such an event. The city provided a comprehensive list of needs that it said “High Times” would be unable to adhere to.

The event had sold nearly 500 tickets prior to the cancellation of the event, said a “High Times” spokesperson, Amanda Younger.

According to a memo presented to councilmembers by Lemoore Police Chief Darrell Smith, he stated that “several California cities have reported negative impacts to the public health, safety, and welfare resulting from marijuana cultivation, processing and distribution activities, including offensive odors, illegal sales and distribution of marijuana, trespassing, theft, violent robberies and robbery attempts, fire hazards, and problems associated with mold, fungus, and pests.

“During the past five years, more than 40 cities and 25 counties in California have adopted ordinances that regulate or ban the cultivation of medical marijuana within their jurisdictions,” continued Smith.

The proposed Ordinance before councilmembers would expressly provide that marijuana delivery services are prohibited in the city, and that no permit or license of any type shall be issued for marijuana delivery services within Lemoore’s jurisdictional limits.

The Lemoore Municipal Code does not expressly address the cultivation, processing, delivery, and distribution of medical marijuana. To avoid having such federally prohibited activities permitted, the proposed ordinance expressly prohibits the establishment and operation of marijuana cultivation, processing, delivery, and dispensary activities, states Smith.

Currently, the City of Lemoore ordinance allows for personal use cultivation in residential areas subject to local building codes. Collective or cooperative cultivation is only allowed in Light Industrial zones.

If the ordinance change is approved, personal cultivation would no longer be permitted.

Such ordinances may be moot if Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and other supporters of the “Adult Use of Marijuana Act to Legalize and Tax Marijuana” makes it on the ballot in 2016.

It’s widely predicted that the measure will be on the ballot in 2016 and could pass based on California’s progressive attitude and similar measures enacted by the voters in Colorado and Oregon.

Originally, there was a March 1, 2016 deadline for communities to pass local legislation adhering to the new state law, but one of the author’s, State Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) said the deadline was set in error and he plans emergency legislation soon to remove that date, allowing cities and counties additional time to regulate or ban marijuana activity, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Because of the March 1 deadline, many California cities and counties were rushing to ban dispensaries and other lawful cannabis activity before the deadline was imposed. Medical cannabis dispensaries have been banned in 19 cities in recent weeks, while dozens more are considering new bans and restrictions.

According to supporters, Gov. Brown has confirmed that he supports an extension so that local governments had more time to come up with regulations that work for their communities.

Cities and counties also have the authority under the new measure which would allow taxation of marijuana activities, dispensaries and other activities.

The new Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act consists of three separate bills which were enacted together on Sept 11, 2015. In anticipation of future voters’ approval of recreational use of marijuana, the bill also creates a comprehensive state licensing system for the commercial cultivation, manufacture, retail sale, transport, distribution, delivery, and testing of medical cannabis. All licenses must also be approved by local governments.