Marijuana measure passed in San Bernardino in 2016 invalid, court says in tentative ruling

A voter-approved ballot measure requiring San Bernardino allow marijuana dispensaries in certain parts of the city has been tentatively ruled invalid by a San Bernardino County Superior Court judge.

In a phone interview Friday, City Attorney Gary Saenz said Judge David Cohn on Thursday, Dec. 28, found Measure O guilty of spot zoning – that is, singling out parcels of land for uses benefiting their owners at the expense of others in the surrounding area – as well as creating a marijuana monopoly in San Bernardino.

Under Measure O’s zoning restrictions, only two locations in the city – one being Flesh Showgirls strip club – would be allowed to sell marijuana, Saenz said.

San Bernardino strip club Flesh Showgirls got a permit to operate a marijuana dispensary. (Cannifornian/SCNG file photo)

Cohn’s written decision is expected within a week or two.

After 55 percent of voters approved Measure O in 2016, San Bernardino was served two lawsuits challenging the measure’s validity and two lawsuits calling for the measure’s immediate implementation.

The city itself, which “didn’t want the litigation to go forward without the city’s voice being heard, without the city being at the table,” Saenz said, sought the court’s decision on the measure’s validity.

In anticipation of the judge’s ruling and of Jan. 1 – the date recreational sales can start in California – the City Council earlier this month banned marijuana businesses, outdoor cultivation and cannabis events for 45 days.

The moratorium, approved unanimously by the body, ensured San Bernardino kept local control of cannabis while city leaders reviewed potential regulations for personal cultivation, public consumption and taxes provided to them by a citizens advisory committee.

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With Measure O’s validity now in jeopardy, council members can home in on those regulations for future adoption, Saenz said.

The temporary ban expires Feb. 3, but can be extended another 10 months and 15 days if the body needs more time for discussion.

“The council is sensitive to the fact voters adopted Measure O, that they want access to marijuana,” Saenz said. “There’s a lot of demand for marijuana and there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed. And they’re not easy issues.

“Not only San Bernardino, but the entire state is struggling with these issues and will continue to struggle with them for quite some time,” Saenz added. “But the best we can do is address what marijuana means for the health and welfare and safety of the people of San Bernardino.”

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