City Council makes no changes after two hours of discussion

After a two hour meeting that mostly focused on the downside of legal marijuana use and both legal and illegal commercial sales, the Taft City Council decided to make no changes in its ordinance that bans all commercial
cannabis inside the city.
The council heard a lengthy presentation on the connection between the violent criminal street gangs in Bakersfield and the illegal marijuana dispensaries in the city, one proponent of a marijuana production facility and opposition from several people, including the chief of police, and each other.
Nothing has changed, but the door is still open permitting cannabis production, at least on a very limited basis, in the future.
There is still unanimous opposition to retail sales.
Mayor Dave Noerr has voiced fierce opposition to legalizing any kind of marijuana business. But the rest of the council has hinted, at least, they could
vote to allow a commercial grow/production facility in industrial zones under the right conditions.
But those conditions aren't right at the present.
A big hold up is finding out if the City will have coverage from its risk
management agency in the event of any legal challenges or lawsuits stemming
from city-permitted cannabis businesses.
For the time being, there is no coverage, and if that changes, it could take
months or longer.
The City belongs to the San Joaquin Valley Risk Management Authority, a
joint powers agreement involving cities from Maricopa to Stockton that
provides insurance and legal representation in the case of lawsuits.
As it stands now, the RMA wouldn't defend the City in the case of a lawsuit.
Lonn Boyer, the City's assistant City Manager and human resources director,
said the SJVRMA has to go through a lengthy process before it changes
its current policy, even if it decides to, and there's no guarantee of that.
However, the possibility of an additional income source through fees paid
by a cannabis facility could be very valuable to the city, Councilman Randy
Miller said.
He's concerned with the loss of sales tax revenue coming with the closing of
Taft's Kmart in April, and the uncertain future of the income the City gets for
operating the Modified Community Correctional Facility through a contract
with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
There are no indications of any plans to close it, but Miller pointed out it
could be closed at any time with only 30 days notice.
It was closed once before, in 2011, sending the City into a financial crisis
and budget cutbacks. "Thirty days -- that's what I worry about," Miller said. "Marijuana is legal in California and we're not going to stop it. It's about finding a new source of income."
City Manager Craig Jones has long advocated a "wait and see" approach if
the City Council does indeed decide to permit cannabis businesses in the
city. There's too much uncertaintyin the short term, and he said people already involved in the industry have said they expect short term chaos and low prices for a time before the market stabilizes.
Noerr is opposed to
cannabis in any form.
"Let this firecracker go off in somebody else's hand," he said.