School Board Stands Against Cannabis Dispensary Measure

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School board members informally agreed to oppose the controversial Measure KK on the November ballot, which, if voters approve, would allow two medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in Laguna Beach. The City Council also signaled its opposition to Measure KK in a vote in August.

About 20 local residents earlier requested that the board adopt a resolution against the measure as a sign of unity with the city officials. This week, as the item was considered for discussion at the Tuesday, Sept. 27, meeting, they returned to again reiterate their request.

All five board members expressed their opposition to the measure, with board President Bill Landsiedel speaking on behalf of absent Carol Normandin. No formal vote was taken. Board member Ketta Brown said she supported the city’s prohibition of medical marijuana dispensaries, but seemed resigned to the expected passage of Prop. 64, a measure on the statewide Nov. 8 ballot that would legalize recreational use for adults.

A point of dissent came from Chloe Bryan, 15, the Associated Student Body school board commissioner, in attendance to report on unrelated student activities.

Though hesitant, she asked if she had permission to speak on the marijuana measure. “I don’t know much about KK, but I know a lot about marijuana, especially among seniors,” she said. “I just want you to know from a student’s point of view, because you are not students.”

Parents are overlooking the larger issue in worrying that a dispensary will draw problems, Chloe said. “The problem is already here. It’s so easy to get drugs now,” she said in a later phone interview.

“I know many students, the majority of students, copious amounts of students that smoke marijuana and do a lot more than that. The main cause people are smoking is students are completely overwhelmed with stress,” said Chloe, who pointed out that the high school’s three counselors seemed to be overwhelmed with demands and in her experience frequently unavailable. “The counselors say there is an open door if you need help, but that isn’t always true.”

While Measure KK was included on the board’s agenda for discussion, Landsiedel expressed reservations about taking a stand on a local political issue. He urged board members to express their views individually rather than voting on a new resolution, which he felt was redundant to the city’s position.

“We try to work with the city whenever health and safety issues effect the students,” board clerk Jan Vickers said. The issue, “is beyond the city scope and crosses over the line into education because it does effect students,” she said.

Defeat Measure KK member Deborah Schlesinger and others were gratified by the outcome. “We’re pleased that they all individually and collectively opposed the measure. If they don’t think this not going to increase the use in high school, they are wrong.” Schlesinger added.

Ballot sponsors Elizabeth Toomey and her nephew, Corey Aufhammer of Laguna Beach, collected signatures of voters validated by the Registrar of Voters to place the measure on the ballot. Its intent would make access to medical marijuana easier for residents, who now must have cannabis delivered or make their purchases out of town.

If voters approve local Measure KK, it would repeal the city’s dispensary ban and authorize two of them, which would be the first dispensaries in south-county. The measure would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to distribute marijuana for recreational use if Prop. 64 is approved, according to the ballot measure on the Orange County Registrar of Voters web site.

Under Measure KK, medical marijuana dispensaries would be required to be located in a commercial or industrial area and cannot abut residential property, be within 1,000 feet of a school or another medical marijuana dispensary, the ballot language says.

City Manager John Pietig outlined the measure’s potential fiscal impact during Tuesday’s City Council meeting. He said it amounted to $3,200 in annual business license fees and a 1 percent portion of the 8 percent sales tax collected on medical marijuana sales. For every $1 million in sales, the city treasury would receive $10,000, he said.

In an analysis on the OC Registrar of Voters web site, Pietig said filing fees, business license tax, as well as state and local sales and use tax related to the dispensaries would generate from $5,000 to $60,000 annually.

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