Ontario would restrict marijuana stores under proposals

Marijuana Ad Hoc Committee members Alfredo Rodriguez, Andy Peterson, John Kirby and Flora Gibbs on Monday discuss the committee’s recommendations for marijuana legislation in Ontario. (The Enterprise/Max Egener)

ONTARIO – A city advisory committee is recommending that the city establish buffers to limit where potential marijuana stores could operate in Ontario.

The committee also is recommending to the Ontario City Council that licenses to operate such stores be granted only to owners who have lived in the city for two years and that parking off street be required.

The recommendations from the city’s Marijuana Ad Hoc Committee follows weeks of meetings and anticipates a vote in November on a measure to repeal the local ban on marijuana sales.

The city council was expected to consider the recommendations at its meeting Tuesday night, too late for presstime. Some councilors were expected to press for immediate adoption of the new regulations.

Committee members included Brad Bartolome, Jahmel Cooke, Flora Gibbs, John Kirby, Andy Petersen, Alfredo “Freddie” Rodriguez and Steven Meland.

The committee has in recent weeks considered regulations for cultivation, taxation, ownership, business licensing, zoning, revenue, operating hours and public safety.

One proposal would require a two-year residency for any business owners with more than half of the ownership “to operate a dispensary in Ontario.” The proposal was brought up by committee member Jahmel Cooke.

“It’s about keeping the people that own businesses to stay part of the community, and that the money would stay with the community,” said City Manager Adam Brown.

The ad hoc committee also recommended banning marijuana retailers within 500 feet of homes and 1,000 feet from parks and recreational centers. Marijuana retailers would have to be at least 1,000 feet apart from each other.

The discussion regarding buffer zones was punctuated by heated statements by some committee members who claimed that Meland, the chairman, was going too far in restricting where future marijuana businesses could operate.

Rodriguez initially supported some restrictions but said he “changed his mind.” He expressed concerns about the safety of low-income housing situated within industrial zones, since marijuana businesses would be restricted to operate in those parts of town.

“I don’t think we should have buffer zones between dispensaries,” Rodriguez said.  “I would like to reconsider my vote of the 1,000 feet zoning between retailers.”

He proposed cutting that restriction, but the committee kept the larger zone.

The committee also is recommending the city conduct some sort of education program to teach the community about marijuana.

Reporter Kristine de Leon: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.