It’ll take another six weeks before it’s finalized, but the word is official – the business era of cannabis sales in Lathrop is over before it began.
The Lathrop City Council voted 4-0 Monday night – with councilwoman Martha Salcedo absent – to impose a ban on all commercial cannabis activities within the city limits in the wake of California’s recent recreational marijuana law that allows for the cultivation, possession and sale of cannabis by residents 21 years of age or older.
While it’ll take more than a month for the readings and adoptions of the ordinance that was approved Monday night, the council took the unusual step of extending an urgency ordinance for the remainder of the two-years it can legally be used – they passed a 45-day urgency ban on all commercial cannabis activity back in December – to cover any overlap between when the council formally voted on the permanent ban and when it would go into effect.
If there are any legal challenges to the permanent ban moving forward, the urgency ordinance will legally allow Lathrop to prohibit the operation of any sort of commercial cannabis enterprise – including retail sales, professional cultivation, storage, treatment or testing of cannabis – for an additional 22 months.
Justin Danner, who represented a Stanislaus County based entity that operates a dispensary in Modesto and recently won approval in Patterson, asked the council to reconsider their position and made himself available to answer any questions about the business or the industry that they were regulating. Ultimately all four members voted in favor of the full ban.
Danner had previously explained that misconceptions about commercial cannabis were plentiful in the wake of the state’s adoption of a ballot initiative that was approved in 2016, starting with the fact that most dispensary operations and cannabis businesses operate on a cash-only model – pointing out that his affiliated network has been able to identify financial institutions that are willing to process payments and extend business banking services that major banks steer clear from because of the federal implications.
And the uncertainty over what the Trump Administration’s response to state’s defying the Federal Controlled Substances Act – which still lists marijuana as a Schedule 1 narcotic alongside cocaine, heroin, PCP and LSD – also played a factor in the decision by the council to avoid any future controversy or unwanted attention. Councilman Steve Dresser pointed out that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said that his office would go after not just the businesses, but also the municipalities and governments that profited off of them by imposing sweeping taxes on retail sales – using the same laws that have allowed law enforcement to confiscate anything purchased through “ill gotten” means for decades.
Lathrop City Attorney Salvador Navarrete confirmed that while the rhetoric from Washington has been short on specifics, the possibility exists that sweeping reform could be possible and it would be within the legal parameters of the Federal government to enforce its own laws.
The recommendation or a permanent ban on commercial cannabis was narrowly approved by the Lathrop Planning Commission with a 3-2 vote late last year and forwarded on for council’s consideration. Because of the legal nature of the urgency ordinance, the proposal had to receive the support of all of the council members present to become law.
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