Planning Commission gets an earful from opponents of permitting sales or manufacture of marijuana
Taft residents told the City Planning Commission they don't want any commercial marijuana businesses in the city -- not retail sales, not commercial growing and manufacturing, not in any form.
About 35 people showed up at the Planning Commission's meeting Wednesday where two proposed draft ordinances were presented but not discussed.
Instead, for nearly an hour, residents took turns imploring the commissioners to keep cannabis out.
The commission is going to discuss the drafts, one of which would permit retail sales in very limited areas of the city, in October.
One would permit retail sales in very limited areas of the city, the other would ban it.
The City Council will have the final say. Councilmembers have indicated they are strongly opposed to retail sales in the city and Chief of Police Ed Whiting said he will not allow it.
But permitting a growing and manufacturing facility has not been ruled out.
The Planning Commission will vote on the drafts at an October meeting and make a recommendation to the Taft City Council, which will have the final say.
In the meantime, commissioners Bob Leikam, Susan Banner, Ron Orrin, Shannon Jones and Jerry Livingston got a lot of public input to consider.
A minister, a recovering addict, educators, businessmen and others all have the same message:
No way. Not in Taft
They didn't mince words, using terms like horrendous, insane, destroyer.
"For the love of God, let's stop this insanity," said Pastor Ron Griffith of the West Side Believers Fellowship. "Please stand up for what's right in this community."
Griffith spoke at length about his personal experience in the ministry, dealing with the toll drug use takes on people, especially children.
"This is a horrible thing for our community," he said. "Do we really need more dope in our community, our town?
People spoke from a personal perspective.
"I have seen the effects of marijuana in my family and it is a destroyer," said John Kopp
Ron Latimore said he's a recovering addict who's been clean for 31 years.
Others aren't so fortunate, he said. Many he knew as users are now dead, he told the commission.
Kelle Black spoke from a family perspective.
Legalized cannabis is going to make things worse, she said.
"From pot -- that's where it starts."
"I've seen a lot of people destroyed," she told the commission. Think about your grandchildren and what you'll be exposing them to."
David Bosworth has started a Facebook Group called Taft Against Cannabis.
"I'm 100 percent against it," he said. "It is a destructive product. It doesn't have a place in our fair city that has been torn apart by drugs. Please just say no."
Fred Holmes spoke from the perspective of an oilman.
"In the oilfield many of our accidents are drug related. The results are horrendous," he said.
There was one voice that didn't speak out against cannabis businesses.
Ryan Coulter has already said he and his partner Travis Neumann are considering opening a marijuana growing and manufacturing facility if it is legal in the city.
He asked the commission to look at the issue objectively and the reality that marijuana is going to be legal.
"I'm not going to argue a moral issue," he said.
Legal marijuana use is going to be a reality on Jan. 1, he said, and it's going to increase costs for regulation and enforcement. Licensing and other fees for a processing facility could offset the costs, he said.
Coulter said he is going to host a Sit n' Sip at the Taft Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 20.