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Anti-dispensary initiative qualifies in Morro Bay

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Voters in Morro Bay will get the chance this November to decide whether medicinal marijuana dispensaries will be permitted within the city.

Opponents of dispensaries gathered enough signatures to send Measure B-10 to the ballot. A vote for the measure would be a vote to ban dispensaries within city limits.

According to City Clerk Bridgett Kessling, 824 signatures were submitted in support of the measure, well beyond the 691 required to qualify for the ballot. Michael Durick, listed as the contact person for the signature-gathering effort, did not return calls for comment.

Though 1996’s voter-approved Proposition 215 legalized medicinal marijuana and Senate Bill SB 420 further clarified the law, cities across the state have acted to ban dispensaries. Morro Bay is one of the few cities in San Luis Obispo County to allow such businesses.

The measure qualified for the ballot as city staffers continue to draft an ordinance that would regulate where, how, and how many proposed dispensaries may operate in the city.

Opponents of dispensaries have claimed that such establishments would attract a criminal element and further harm the city’s struggling tourism industry. Mayor Janice Peters has stated publicly she doesn’t see evidence to support the claim, referring to the dispensary previously operated in the city by Arroyo Grande resident Charles Lynch, before he was arrested and prosecuted in federal court.

“We did have the dispensary open for about a year, and I think most people didn’t even know it was here,” Peters told New Times. “But the political awareness of the issue has since changed, and it’s fallen beyond the casual comfort level of some residents, and that’s why I think it made it on the ballot.”

Peters, who voted for the draft dispensary ordinance in the spring, added she was glad citizens took enough interest in the issue to get the measure on the ballot.

“This remains a really tough decision because of the discrepancy in state and federal laws. That’s why we’ve been working on this ordinance: so we’ll have safeguards in place should those kinds of problems arise,” she said.

Should Proposition 19, which calls for the decriminalization of marijuana for adult recreational use, pass the statewide election on Nov. 2, it would essentially render the Morro Bay measure irrelevant.

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