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080117 Lompoc Council marijuana 01 (copy)

In this Aug. 1 file photo, three pro-marijuana speakers stand in line in front of an anti-marijuana protester as they wait to address the Lompoc City Council. Lompoc City Manager Patrick Wiemiller, left, and Attorney Joe Pannone are seated in the rear.

An ordinance adopted by the Lompoc City Council last month that outlined regulations for marijuana manufacturing and sales within the city has been suspended due to a referendum petition that has been filed by residents opposed to the new law.

The suspension was announced by the city Thursday, a week after the petition for referendum was filed with the Lompoc City Clerk on Dec. 7. The Santa Barbara County Elections Office now has 30 working days from Dec. 7 to determine if there are at least 1,626 valid signatures on the petition. If there are, Ordinance No. 1640(17) will either need to be repealed by the City Council or placed on the November 2018 ballot for approval or denial by voters.

The deadline for the Elections Office to determine if the signatures are valid — they must all come from Lompoc residents — is Jan. 23.

The ordinance, which outlines regulations for the sale and distribution of medical and recreational cannabis, was approved by the City Council on Nov. 7. Based on direction given by the council at that meeting, City Attorney Joe Pannone is expected to introduce a medical-only ordinance to the council at its Jan. 16 meeting, according to a Lompoc city spokeswoman.

If that new ordinance is introduced on Jan. 16, then a second reading can be held at the council’s Feb. 6 meeting. Prior to that Feb. 6 council meeting, it is expected the Santa Barbara County Elections Office will have determined whether there are sufficient valid signatures on the referendum petition to continue the suspension of the original ordinance.

If there are insufficient signatures on the petition that was filed Dec. 7, then Ordinance No. 1640(17) would become effective and there would be no need for a new ordinance dealing with medical cannabis uses. The council could choose at that time to rescind its first reading of the new ordinance, or simply not have a second reading.

Thursday’s announcement came after a month of debates regarding cannabis in the city, which has been a primary topic of discussion for the council for the past year.

Helen Free, a spokesperson for the group that collected the signatures and pushed for the referendum, said last month that many people opposed to the ordinance found it be heavily “flawed.”

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“The referendum that we’re proposing doesn’t preclude personal use or growing of six plants in the home, because we know the state passed that,” Free said. “We’re not trying to bypass anything that the state has passed. We just felt like the people ought to know that this referendum will only address the commercial growing, processing and sales of cannabis. It kind of puts the brakes on the process to allow the citizens of Lompoc to determine if the policy that was adopted by the City Council majority really meets the community standards.”

Other citizens who are in favor of the ordinance have indicated at past City Council meetings that they plan to begin an informational campaign to help Lompoc residents better understand what they believe are some of the positive impacts that the marijuana industry can have on the city.

The next meeting of the Lompoc City Council is scheduled for Dec. 19.

Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.

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