SanTana City Council Backpedals on Pot

A typical pot shop display case
A typical pot shop display case
Kent Kanouse/Flickr

Once more, SanTana's City Council brought up the recent whirlwind of medical marijuana clinics at the September 16th city council meeting. For the first time since the July 15th meeting, they even decided to have a discussion about it. Prior attempts to do so have been delayed due to absent council members.

At the July 15th city council meeting, the council voted in favor of allocating $500,000 toward marijuana enforcement, a move initiated by Councilwoman Michelle Martinez. However, they didn't inform the general public at that meeting (or any subsequent meetings) that pulling money from the city's reserve funds requires a "supermajority," in this case, a minimum of 5 "yes" votes. As the July 15th vote didn't actually have a supermajority, they had to vote on it again at the September 16th meeting.

The meeting agenda for September 16th, available online, includes a request from City Manager David Cavazos for a more specific distribution of the $500k that would allocate $350,000 to the police department and $150,000 to the City Attorney's office.

During councilmember comment, Councilman Vincent Sarmiento voiced that the series of arrests throughout the last couple months resulted in a clogged misdemeanor court on September 2nd, one angry judge, and a looming series of expensive trials for the arrestees who are challenging their arrests. "To go out and do multiple arrests, not only does it cause a heavy workload and a burden on [the police dept.], but it burdens the court system also," he said, referring to the misdemeanor court being shut down on September 2nd due to the volume of medical marijuana arraignments that occurred. He went on to remind the council that the enforcement conversation originated with the regulatory measures proposed, which tax the dispensaries and use that tax money to fund enforcement.

Upcoming Events

In a unanimous vote, the council moved to table the topic altogether until after voting season ends in November. Essentially they are putting off all discussion on allocating funds for enforcement pending the competing medical marijuana regulatory measures on the ballot.

Medical marijuana activists expect this to stave off the raids at least until November. However, the council noted that the recent enforcement efforts were possible using only current resources, so whether or not they actually intend to continue arresting and ticketing storefront employees remains to be seen. They can still legally ticket dispensaries with a misdemeanor $500 ticket simply for existing, but with litigation with prior arrestees ongoing, they may choose to not enforce the ban until trial law decides the matter.

Meanwhile the dispensaries, dab bars and legitimate shops alike, are still open.

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