HESPERIA — The City Council was greeted with thunderous applause from residents last Tuesday evening after it voted to revisit a proposed ordinance that would have prohibited the cultivation, manufacturing and mobile dispensing of medical marijuana.
Many in the standing-room only crowd exchanged hugs and high-fives after the Hesperia Council voted 5-0 to craft a new ordinance that would allow for the home cultivation and home delivery of the substance that many in the crowd called a life-saving cure.
After the nearly four-hour meeting, many residents personally thanked the Council as they shook hands with them and cried tears of joy.
“I thought tonight was an incredible victory for the residents, those that are sick and need safe and affordable access to medical marijuana,” Attorney Pamela Epstein, who represents the High Desert Cannabis Association, told the Daily Press. “It’s a victory in terms of responsible regulation by the city of Hesperia.”
Epstein said Hesperia was forced into a situation to regulate medical marijuana, and they did “the best they could and acted responsibly” under the guise of an urgency ordinance.
The forced situation was brought on by a “legislative drafting error” that had local governments in California racing to ban medical marijuana cultivation. This resulted in crafting AB21, an emergency bill that was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last month that corrected the error, the Associated Press said.
The legislation amends the comprehensive medical marijuana regulations the California Legislature passed in September to eliminate a paragraph giving the state alone authority to license marijuana growers in jurisdictions that did not have laws on the books by March 1 specifically allowing or outlawing cultivation.
Fearful of losing their power to set their own policy, many municipalities chose to ban all commercial pot-growing within their borders during the last three months. Some also banned authorized medical marijuana users from growing their own pot, with dozens more considering the issue last month, according to the AP.
“I was very surprised at the Council’s decision and I came in very skeptical thinking we wouldn’t gain any movement,” Epstein said. “But we got the victory, which is actually a victory for the entire industry as a whole. The Council is to be commended.”
The Council said its intention was never to ban the personal use or cultivation of medical marijuana or place a heavy burden on the patients who use the substance. They also added that the city needed to regulate the substance, citing years of major “issues” with dozens of illegally-run dispensaries that the scene of shootings, prostitution and other crime.
Epstein was one of nearly 40 residents — many with canes, crutches, walkers and electric scooters — who addressed the Council, sharing stories of how medical marijuana could only do what prescription medication could not do for them or for a family member.
One woman, who described herself as an “elected official" and has earned multiple degrees, said she is the new “face of marijuana.” She added that the old face of marijuana was portrayed by people such as comedians such as Cheech and Chong or movies like “Pineapple Express.”
The woman said she became a believer in “the miracle of nature” after enduring several back surgeries and taking several prescription drugs that failed to help her.
A teary-eyed Jean Wiseman brought many to tears as she begged the Council to “please don’t take (medical marijuana) away,” adding that it’s the only thing that has kept her 86-year-old husband alive as he deals with a diseased liver and failing health.
Pasqual Gomez was one of many who said they agreed with certain aspects of medical marijuana regulation, but not to the point of banning cultivation and delivery service.
“I’m not a pot smoker, I’m a patient,” Gomez said, as he leaned on his cane. “I see myself in a chair so please give it a chance to be regulated properly — I need my medication.”
“I’m very pleased that the Council didn’t approve the ban and that they decided to regulate and work with us as a community,” business owner Katie Polson told the Daily Press. “I was honestly surprised by the response of some of the Council, but I could not be more happy with what happened tonight.”
Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLa Cruz@VVDailyPress.com or on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz.