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By Allison Jarrell

Unlike many topics at San Juan Capistrano City Council meetings, consensus was reached in record time Monday night to ban medical marijuana dispensaries, manufacturers, cultivation and delivery within the city.

The ordinance came before the council after the Planning Commission voted Dec. 22 during its public hearing to recommend that the council prohibit cannabis businesses and manufacturers in town. The commission voted 4-1, with Commissioner Thomas Nelson dissenting and Commissioner Mark Speros absent.

Following a mere 12 minutes of discussion on Jan. 18, the City Council voted unanimously to approve the commission’s recommendation and bring the ordinance back for final approval. Twenty-five year resident Steve Behmerwohld was the sole public speaker on the item, saying he’s never heard of a marijuana problem in town and feels the ban is a “solution looking for a problem.”

Councilman John Perry said he’s against the increasing legalization nationwide and thinks marijuana should be “prescribed by a real doctor” and “dispensed by a pharmacy.” He added that he’s “seen a couple of the marijuana fairs” with “stoned slackers” in Colorado and “it just gets out of control.”

“You call a number and suddenly someone appears with the marijuana. That’s not San Juan,” Perry said, referring to cannabis delivery services currently operating in the city. “Or you get 10 or 15 cannabis shops downtown, that’s not San Juan. I think we’re a little better than that.”

San Juan Capistrano is the last of the tri-cities to prohibit marijuana business in town. The city of San Clemente recently approved a ban on medical marijuana commercial outlets, testing facilities and delivery services, and the Dana Point City Council also voted to adopt an ordinance banning the sale of marijuana by dispensaries, along with its cultivation in and delivery to the city.

During the Dec. 22 Planning Commission meeting, City Attorney HongDao Nguyen noted that San Juan residents with a medical card will still be able to possess and use medical marijuana in their homes—they just have to go elsewhere to buy it.

When asked how the city can begin to regulate the dispensaries operating via mobile delivery, Nguyen listed options ranging from cease and desist letters and citations to “full-blown litigation” and filing criminal or civil complaints to obtain injunctions.

The second reading and final vote on the ordinance is on the agenda for the council’s Jan. 25 meeting, which begins at 4 p.m. The ordinance goes into effect 30 days after it’s passed.

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