Cannabis fans preparing to light up for special events in Lompoc parks can put their papers and lighters away for now. On a split vote Tuesday, the Lompoc City Council voted to table an ordinance which would have allowed temporary cannabis events in any of three city parks.
“Events are something we’d like, but we’re just not ready, guys,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Victor Vega, who made the motion.
He also took exception to the timing of the ordinance given the current state of the pandemic.
“It’s about timing, for me, during the pandemic. We have a mask mandate coming … then we have people advocating smoking in public places. It doesn’t sit well with me,” he said.
Councilwoman Gilda Cordova seconded the motion to table the ordinance after stressing repeatedly that the city has work to do before bringing in events.
“As a community, we have a responsibility to our residents as well, so to say that we’re going to fund police by starting to bring in cannabis events, I don’t think that’s the answer. My grave concern is: Are we ready to do this and do we have enough background, have enough resources … to make it successful?” Cordova asked.
Under the proposed ordinance, the city could have allowed up to four special cannabis-related events where participants 21 years of age or older could have sold and consumed cannabis. The event “would very likely take place outdoors and would likely take the form of a festival or expo where vendors would sell cannabis and cannabis products, and eventgoers could smoke or otherwise consume cannabis,” according to a staff report prepared by Community Development Director Christie Alarcon.
Proposed venues included River Park, Ken Adam Park and River Bend Park.
Like other events held in the city, applicants would have been required to submit a special event application to the Lompoc Recreation Division. They also would have been required to work with other city department including police and fire on developing public event safety plans.
In addition, the state requires organizers to obtain a state Cannabis Event Organizer (Type 14) license and a state Temporary Cannabis Event license.
Mayor Jenelle Osborne said she requested the ordinance three years ago to address a desire she had heard cannabis business owners express. She said the initial intention was for small events using local resources for shuttles and local hotel deals. Revenues from transient occupancy tax, city cannabis tax and sales tax throughout the city during the event would have helped bolster the city’s struggling budget.
Osborne also said she could see event organizers funding or otherwise providing pre- and post-event cleanup and extensive work that would benefit residents even after the events concluded.
“The wine festival left because our gopher holes were so bad,” she said.
Cordova took issue with a pay-to-play plan.
“This is not a fair playing field for our families, our kids and our town,” Cordova said.
Alarcon explained that while the city has the staff to repair parks, it does not have the materials. Requiring event organizers to financially support park maintenance and repair could cover that gap.
“If you had given parks $60,000, we wouldn’t be asking the cannabis industry, we wouldn’t ask the wine industry. We’d have staff go out and buy dirt and take care of it,” Alarcon said.
Cordova fired back that the council would have budgeted the money if they’d had it.
“We don’t have the money to give that quality of life to our residents, but we’re saying if someone can pay to get into our public parks, we’ll do that … but if a local guy wants to play, let’s not even put that on the record,” Cordova said.
Councilman Jeremy Ball provided the third vote to put the brakes on cannabis events in the city. He then threw his support behind Osborne’s motion to bring the issue back to the council before year’s end. With a second from Councilman Dirk Starbuck, they also asked staff to provide information about other cities’ experiences with similar events.
“I think we need to work on it and get it in place because these events are going to take a year to plan,” Osborne said.