Milpitas is paving the way for marijuana dispensaries — now currently banned — to operate in the city by early 2019.
The City Council voted last week to create rules that would regulate how many and what kind of marijuana businesses would be allowed and where.
Councilmen Bob Nuñez and Anthony Phan suggested the city initially allow 10 businesses — four dispensaries and six non-retail, like cultivators or manufacturers.
Mayor Rich Tran and Councilman Garry Barbadillo voted no, while Vice Mayor Marsha Grilli, Phan and Nuñez voted yes.
Tran said he didn’t think the community as a whole was ready for dispensaries, citing the results of a community poll this year in which 48 percent said they were opposed while 35 percent supported both recreational and medical dispensaries and 14 supported supported only medical dispensaries. Three percent were undecided.
Barbadillo said he was concerned about allowing marijuana businesses because the city does not have a framework to tax them. However, he also cast the sole vote against placing a marijuana business tax measure on the ballot in August, which was enough to strike it down.
The city council enacted a temporary ban on all commercial marijuana businesses and deliveries in the city in early 2017, shortly after California voters approved Proposition 64, legalizing marijuana for personal use.
The council has since extended the temporary ban to its maximum length of two years allowed under state law, and it will expire on January 17, according to a city staff report.
The city must follow a strict timeline to draft and vote on upcoming ordinances that would regulate the businesses, with a goal of having them go into effect by Jan. 4. All the regulations would have to be pinned down by a Nov. 20 council meeting, according to the timeline in a staff report.
City Attorney Chris Diaz told the council if the ban expires, and no clear rules are in place about what kind of marijuana businesses are allowed in the city then they could potentially illegally set up shop, and the city would have to contend with trying to kick them out.
Barbadillo said he was concerned that trying to iron out details of where the council wants to allow marijuana businesses “might blow us up on our time frame,” leaving the city open to more risk.
“I’m not saying I’m completely against cannabis,” Barbadillo said at the meeting. “What I’m saying is at this point, we are not ready for it. That was indicated by the failure of the tax revenue ordinance.”
But Phan took issue with Barbadillo’s statement.
“The failure of the tax ordinance, if you recall, was your vote against it,” Phan said. “You can’t use that as a basis to say that we’re not ready. We are ready. We have a majority that was ready for the taxes.”
Tran said he supports marijuana businesses, but didn’t believe there was enough community support for retail shops in the city yet, and because he wants to be “representative of the majority of people,” he voted against it.
He made it clear how much he thinks personal recreational use of marijuana for residents should be supported, however.
He wanted to vote for an option that would set up clear rules for personal growth of marijuana plants in the city, and to continue with a ban on businesses until more community outreach could be done on the issue.