Hermosa Beach City Council delays cannabis decision, pending survey results

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by Dan Blackburn

Hermosa Beach’s City Council decided to delay until May 10 a decision on the city’s response to a retail marijuana sales initiative until an ongoing community survey is completed.

The survey, according to City Manager Suja Lowenthal, covers a variety of issues, one of which addresses the prevailing community view of allowing retail marijuana sales within city limits.  Retail sales are currently banned under a three-year-old ordinance.

Resident Colton Chacker is sponsoring a recently qualified, cannabis initiative that will appear on the November ballot. It would allow up to two retail cannabis establishments in the city.

Receipt of a report with recommendations produced by a citizens’ advisory group was set for a public hearing, but Lowenthal asked the council to schedule the issue for a later date.

“The survey is winding up as we speak,” she said, asserting community opinion on the pot issue will be helpful for the council’s decision-making process.

Several residents complained that they had heard nothing about the survey.

Misinformation about the local cannabis issue is a problem, City Attorney Mike Jenkins said, noting he’s heard some people wonder if the city council is “supporting” legal pot sales.

“The council had only two choices” after receiving Chacker’s initiative, Jenkins said, “to adopt it as law, as is, without alteration, or to place it on a future ballot for voter consideration.”

Council member Ray Jackson asked if a separate initiative, on the same ballot as the Chacker measure, to maintain the current city pot ban would be possible. Jenkins opined the council could take such an action.

“If there were two or three [competing] measures” on the ballot, said Jenkins, “the one with the most votes would prevail.” He told the council that members could take a position on the proposals as a group, or individually, but that no city funds could be used to promote or oppose any measure on the ballot.

Following a bevy of speakers critical of cannabis, resident Bob Atkins chided the council for “treating us like children.” He was critical of assertions that legal sales of pot in the city would adversely impact young people.

“After listening to all the hysterical, hypocritical hyperbole from so many people, it’s just unbelievable,” he said. “I hear a lot of, ‘Oh, we’ve got to protect the children.’ What you are really doing is denying access to people like me.

“I’m not a pothead,” said Atkins, a senior who sports a full white beard. “I very rarely smoke it. But I’m a legal age adult and no spring chicken.” He suggested that everyone on the council, the cannabis group, and everyone who is listening probably smoked pot when they were young, and whether you like it or not, the kids today are doing the same thing. Pot is legal for adults and is heavily regulated.”

Atkins concluded by saying, “I really abhor the concept of having my rights taken away, like I’m a five-year-old. What you are really saying is let’s find a way to really screw this up.”

In other business, the council:

– Approved an amendment to the city’s agreement with the Hermosa Beach Chamber of Commerce to allow certain Fiesta Hermosa event activities at the Community Center parking lot, and on the beach on the south side of the Pier;

– Moved to correct a situation described by staff as “temporary beach volleyball courts which were installed within the residential zones south of 10th Street and north of 15th Street.” Now the nets must be 50 feet from the Strand. Also, recreation activities that block or hinder beach or emergency access for lifeguards are prohibited. ER


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