By Kevin Harris
The Simi Valley City Council voted to poll neighborhood councils on the city’s current interest in allowing, and taxing cannabis businesses to operate locally, in order to determine if the issue will be placed on the November ballot, during Monday night’s city council meeting.
The council had other options on Monday, including changing local codes to allow for the sale of medical and/or recreational cannabis; do nothing; or call for an advisory cannabis measure to be included on the November ballot. Instead, a divided council chose to forward comprehensive poll questions to the neighborhood councils, dividing the issue into its various categories such as medical verses recreational sales; manufacturing and cultivation verses deliveries; whether retail storefronts should be allowed and where; and what elements should be taxed.
In 2018, Simi Valley residents voted on three ballot measures related to marijuana:
Measure Q: Without going into all of the nitty-gritty, this measure would tax all marijuana businesses, cultivation and sales within the city. This measure passed overwhelmingly, by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. According to city staff, Measure Q has generated about $15 thousand per year for the city.
Measure R: This measure, like the next one, was an advisory measure, and as such, the results were noted but non-binding (would not change existing laws). This measure asked whether cannabis businesses such as cultivation, manufacturing, testing and deliveries would be allowed to operate in the city. The measure lost, by a fairly close margin.
Measure S: This measure asked local residents if cannabis businesses operating in the city in the future should be limited, geographically, to operating within the city’s Sexually Oriented Business Overlay Zone. The measure lost soundly.
The way other Ventura County cities are handling cannabis is a mixed bag. Port Hueneme allows recreational marijuana sales, as well as consumption in designated lounges. That city collected $2.2 million from cannabis dispensaries in 2020 alone. The City of Ojai has three legally operating pot dispensaries (as of Nov., 2021), and some manufacturing businesses are in the permitting process there as well. In Oxnard, 14 retail cannabis businesses were recently approved to operate within that city (reportedly out of 51 businesses that applied).
Camarillo and Santa Paula, however, currently prohibit cannabis activities.
City Council Comments
While there were no public speakers set to present at the time, there was some back-and-forth between city council members on the issue.
Mayor Pro Tem Elaine Litster: “I want to make it clear that I’m voting against it (anything other than the do-nothing option),” she told the council. “I believe that several years ago, we brought it to the voters, and they spoke clearly that, 52%, did not want sales and production here in our city, and I stand by that decision two years ago,” she added.
Mayor Keith Mashburn: “Things change over a couple of years,” he said in response. “The number of people that have been requesting us to look at this again seems to be relatively high. And we’re not voting on it, we’re still looking at advisory, not us making the law,” he added.
During the council comments, City Council Member Mike Judge jokingly referred to the recent viral video of the local apartment explosion, presumably caused by illegal drug manufacturing. “Maybe we don’t want manufacturing in the city,” he said, to laughs from the other council members.
The vote was 4 to 1 in favor of forwarding the issue along to neighborhood councils for possible inclusion on the November ballot. Mayor Pro Tem Litster voted against.
A Familiar Face Speaks on Local Gun Rights
Earlier in the meeting, during the “Public Statements” period, the always articulate spokes person for individual liberty, and according to him, candidate for local Sheriff, Bruce Boyer, spoke about gun rights and the issuance of concealed carry permits.
Boyer said there are about 30 thousand gun owners in Simi Valley alone, all of whom are concerned about their Second Amendment Rights. He told the council that 2000 counties (out of 3100 counties) nationally, “have declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries,” which means they will not recognize laws that go against Second Amendment Rights. He also said that cities can do the same, and would like Simi Valley to do just that.
Boyer then exposed the hypocrisy of gun laws and enforcement by using very personal examples. “Can we the people sling a rifle over our shoulders and walk down Los Angeles Avenue and walk into Greta’s Guns with it?,” he asked the council. “Under current state law, no. We’re getting cuffed, we’re going to jail,” he said.
“Not all of us. Most of us. Council Member Judge would not go to jail. Retired police officer badge, he has a Second Amendment Right. Council Member Luevanos, if you chose to carry a gun in public, you’re going to jail. Let me ask the question: Why is it that .2 percent of the population have a Second Amendment, but 99.8 percent of us don’t? Why is it that Mayor Mashburn can not be trusted to carry a gun, but he’s trusted to be Mayor?,” he asked.
Boyer closed by asking to have a public forum to deal with the issue.
The next Simi Valley City Council meeting will be on Monday, March 14, 2022, at 6:30 PM. The URL to watch the meetings back and to download a meeting agenda is https://www.simivalley.org/departments/city-council/city-council-meetings
Kevin Harris is a reporter, editor and journalist, previous President of Cal State Northridge’s Society of Professional Journalists, and having worked for the LA Times and Newhall Signal. He is now also an author and videographer, and lives with his two children in Thousand Oaks.