Mountain View, California—On May 23, Mountain View City Council members amended a previous bill and completely banned all storefront marijuana shops. The result was a unanimous decision of 6–0, compared to a previous decision of 2–5.
Mountain View has never permitted the sell and use of marijuana in any of its local laws. However, as of fall 2018, a bill was proposed to allow the city to open cannabis shops, under strict guidelines.
The resolution would allow the city to offer four cannabis business permits. That is, two storefront shops and two non-storefront shops. Storefront shops refer to actual retail stores in which marijuana and related items may be sold to walk-in customers. Non-storefront shops are those that exclusively deliver to customers.
According to a press release from California Coalition Against Drugs, local residents attended the public city hall meeting voicing opinions against marijuana outlets. With conjoined efforts, the Mountain View community and the coalition got involved and worked hard to overturn the decision. They were especially concerned with the effects toward the younger generation and the future of the city.
According to Frank Lee, Bay Area director at California Coalition Against Drugs, one of the key points to influencing legislators is to not be afraid to take legal action. Communities are encouraged to continue writing and sending letters, letting those in charge know that the people have their voices.
Mountain View has seven city council members, of which none are Chinese. However, the Chinese community were involved in the efforts of influencing this decision.
Council members may be kicked out of council or be affected if they don’t consider the voice of the people. For example, one legislator recused himself nearly a week before Milpitas’ complete ban on marijuana. The coalition discovered that he used to be a principal at a major consulting marijuana firm. A press conference was then held, and Lee mentioned there were 400–500 people sending letters to the city.
Prior to the complete marijuana ban, the city’s cannabis regulations web page indicates that it has taken efforts to restrict marijuana use by prohibiting it in the following places: wherever smoke is prohibited, while driving or riding in a vehicle, at or near schools, day care centers or youth centers where children are present, at city-owned facilities (indoor or outdoor), and near building entrances.
Oftentimes, when council members ignore the communities’ voices, residents may use their right to sue the cannabis shops. Lee says that a council member was advocating for the bill; however, upon hearing about the possibility of a lawsuit, he withdrew soon afterward.
In February of last year, there was a Mountain View community survey regarding retail marijuana, of which 1,595 people responded, according to the results. When respondents were asked to list their greatest concerns regarding commercial marijuana, the top three priorities were “Safety. Location of dispensaries. Too many dispensaries.”
Marijuana is currently classified as a Category I Prohibited Drug, which puts it under tight restrictions and subjects marijuana-based businesses to comply to federal law. This allows federal government to get involved if necessary.
In January 2019, a new bill was introduced to remove marijuana from the Category 1 controlled substance classification. This is one of the amendments to decriminalize it on a federal level. If this bill passes, each state may have their own local laws to govern cannabis regulation. The pressure from federal law would diminish because federal intervention and lawsuit would be prohibited. Per press release from the coalition, “our threat to take legal action remains a considerable deterrence.”
There is a new proposed bill called SB625, and if passed, would allow passengers on public transportation vehicles to ingest marijuana if there are no children under 21 present. Transportation vehicles include buses, taxicabs, and limousines. The bill further states that the driver must have a sealed-off compartment
Earlier this year, AB 1356 was amended by an assembly member, permitting 1 cannabis retail shop for every 15,000 residents. Mountain View has a population of roughly 81,000 people. This amendment was approved and passed in May; however, within 2 weeks, the same assembly member revoked the filing of the amendment. This can be attributed to the community’s hard work and consistency in voicing their opinions.
Lee shares that this amendment may make an appearance again in the future. Even with the reversal in bills, he says, ”Now is not the time to relax, and we still have to work very hard on different fronts.“