While the state of California and Fresno voters have legalized recreational marijuana, it will not be commercially grown or sold in the city. The city council voted 4-3 in favor to ban commercial growing, selling and smoking marijuana in public.

Known as Proposition 64, 57.1% of voters in California approved; in Fresno it was favored by 51.4% of the vote. The text of the law though allows local governments to regulate marijuana businesses, including banning them outright. That is the avenue the City Council chose Thursday (Aug. 31).

The council discussed two marijuana related items. In addition to the business ban, they heard a proposal from Council President Clint Olivier to hire a consultant for up to $100,000. He said that city staff weren’t the right people to write any ordinances: “They are not experts when it comes to cannabis policy in the city of Fresno.”

Olivier then brought up the ongoing council debate about how many marijuana plants an individual can grow. Prop. 64 sets the limit at six plants, but a city could expand that if it so chooses. He also shot down the argument made by marijuana ban supporter Garry Bredefeld that personal growth creates a fire hazard. Oliver cited a memo from Fire Chief Keri Donis that stated there were only nine calls for service of a marijuana grow-caused fire.

“This is what we are being asked to vote upon. There is legislation before this body that flies in the face of all logic that’s based on panic and one guy’s opinion,” Olivier said referring to Bredefeld, sponsor of the pot ban. “We are being asked to ratify this without using our brains and out of the simple fact that one man is afraid.”

Olivier amended his proposal to remove any dollar amount and create a council committee to help select the consultant. Mayor Lee Brand supported the plan, but felt he could do it for $50,000 or less.  City contracts for under that amount are not subject to council approval, Brand said.

The public was mixed in their reaction to the consultant and legalization of marijuana in the city in general.

Sister Freya of Sisters in the Valley talked about the success the drug has on suffering patients.

Carole Liperr, a Marine veteran, says marijuana is a better alternative for her disability. “I would have to take many, many other kinds of drugs to take care of what one little marijuana puff-puff would do,” she said.

Melissa Fairless and Kim Castro spoke against marijuana use and hiring a consultant. Fairless said she was willing to share her expertise as a drug counselor for free (other experts also volunteered their services).

That vote passed 4-2 (For: Olivier, Oliver Baines, Esmeralda Soria, Paul Caprioglio; Against: Bredefeld, Steve Brandau; Luis Chavez did not register a vote).

Then, the vote on the ban itself came up. Bredefeld asked for a vote right away. It was momentarily delayed without a second for the motion — a situation Olivier noted.

“It doesn’t look like there’s a second, so that item dies for lack of a second,” he said.

“Not yet,” Bredefeld responded. He asked for Councilman Luis Chavez, who was calling in from Philadelphia, to chime in. Chavez seconded the motion, allowing the vote on the ban to happen.

Olivier rushed through the debate, hoping to get to a noon lunch meeting on time. He noted that he, Caprioglio and Brand had a get-together scheduled with a delegation from the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.

Olivier closed public debate and entertained a motion by Oliver Baines to table the marijuana ban until hearing from the consultant. That failed 4-3 (For: Olivier, Baines, Soria; Against: Brandau, Bredefeld, Caprioglio, Chavez).

Finally, the vote came on the marijuana ban. That passed on a 4-3 vote (For: Brandau, Bredefeld, Caprioglio, Chavez; Against: Olivier, Baines, Soria;).

The ordinance will have to come back for a second vote, which could happen as early as Sept. 21.

Other items:

-The council voted to spend $542,250 for 24 new pick-up trucks form Swanson Farney Ford of Selma, the lone bidder. These trucks will be used by the teams that will enforce the new Rental Housing Improvement Act. It was a 6-0 vote

-The council heard a presentation from the Public Utilities Department about whether they should invest in two proposed major water projects: Temperance Flat Dam and the Twin Tunnels. The idea would be to gain access to water for future growth. Director Tommy Esqueda said the best bet at the moment is Temperance Flat.


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