By Ed Martin, Editor
Chief Darrell Smith
Chief Darrell Smith

Lemoore’s leaders certainly have had their hands full with marijuana issues this past year, and on Tuesday night, thanks to a report from Lemoore Chief of Police Darrell Smith, they’ll have even more to consider as the state’s voters digest the effects of Proposition 64.

On Tuesday, Sept. 6, at the Lemoore City Council’s regular meeting, Smith will present councilmembers with his staff report, the latest salvo in the ongoing drive to legalize the use of marijuana in California, exemplified by the Adult Use Marijuana Act (AUMA) known as Proposition 64, which will be on the California ballot on Nov. 8.

Read the Staff Report

In January, councilmembers voting 4-1, gave a big thumbs up to a local ordinance designed to prohibit marijuana cultivation, delivery and dispensaries within the city limits - and a possible thumbs down to California’s progressive trend toward regarding the recreational and medicinal use of marijuana favorably. Only Councilmember Billy Siegel voted against the ordinance.

Late last year, councilmembers also denied a request from High Times magazine to hold the First Annual Central California Hallo-Weed Medical Cannabis Cup in the city’s limits.

If passed by voters in November, Proposition 64 would legalize the possession of up to 28.5 grams of marijuana, up to eight grams of marijuana in the form of concentrated cannabis (edibles), and up to six living marijuana plants. Cities will be allowed to add to or create additional regulations, and Prop. 64 would also impose sales taxes of 15 percent. Cities would also be entitled to implement additional taxes.

“If passed, Proposition 64 will undermine the city’s ordinance prohibiting medical marijuana from being sold, dispensed, delivered, and cultivated with the city limits,” stated Smith. “Under the AUMA, if passed, the city’s current ordinance will require modifications to allow indoor growing.”

Smith’s comprehensive staff report left little doubt as to where he stands on the issue. He cited the strong opposition of California’s law enforcement community – every major state law enforcement association is actively opposing the AUMA, he stated in the report. Key opponents included the California Police Chiefs Association, California State Sheriffs Association, California Peace Officers Association, California Narcotics Association, and numerous local organizations and individual officials.

However, despite Lemoore’s and Kings County’s conservative bent, local officials may be on the losing side of Proposition 64. Polls, including an analysis by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), indicate that Prop. 64 is likely to pass with 60 percent of the vote.

“California seems poised to show its blue state credentials in the fall,” said Mark Baldassare, an analysist with the PPIC. “Voters today are signaling their early support for Democratic statewide candidates, tax initiatives, and marijuana legalization.”

Baldassare said that a majority (60%) of likely voters say marijuana use should be legal, with 37 percent in opposition.

It’s estimated that the passage of Proposition 64 would generate about $1 billion in new taxes annually, which would be directed toward substance abuse prevention and treatment.

The City of Lemoore, if it so chooses, could also decide to tax marijuana locally. In fact, in his staff recommendation, Smith says he’s asking for direction on “potential policies” related to permitting the growing of marijuana, how its sold in Lemoore, and if the city wants it taxed for local purposes.

Lemoore’s neighbor to the west, Coalinga, has already taken action, approving commercial marijuana cultivation with city limits including selling some of its property – the city’s dormant prison, Claremont Custody Center, to Ocean Grown Extracts for $4.1 million. Ocean Grown will turn the former facility into a medical cannabis oil extraction plant.