Fresno City Council votes to ban marijuana dispensaries, cultivation

Friday, June 23, 2017
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An unexpected blindside topped off a night of contentious debate.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- An unexpected blindside topped off a night of contentious debate-- Council President Clint Olivier surprising everyone by amending an ordinance banning recreational marijuana into one that would allow it.

"You can see the surprise on the faces on the other council members, they didn't know what was going on, this was too serious of a matter to use the political tricks," said Pastor Jim Franklin, Cornerstone Church.

But Olivier's motion drew applause from the crowd, many of whom are medical marijuana users. They say prohibiting dispensaries and cultivation will have an effect on their health.

"It's going to create hardship for me and for many, many, other people who are suffering and want a safer alternative," said Terese Wils, supporter of medical marijuana.

For two hours the two sides went back and forth. Supporters saying allowing cultivation would ease violence and break a monopoly cartels have on the street. Religious leaders arguing the drug will put youth at more risk.

"Instead of enabling criminal gang to thrive in a black market, my motion would have allowed for regulation," said Olivier.

"We know these dispensaries are going to be south of Shaw in low income areas to exploit those that are suffering from poverty," said Rodney Lowery, Fresno Police Department.

In the end the council voted to adhere to its original plan-- banning dispensaries in the city-- going against Fresno voters who backed recreational pot back in November.

"Prop 64 gives cities the right to ban dispensaries, I think it was the right message to send to our youth," said Garry Bredefeld, Fresno City Council.

Even though they rejected recreational marijuana councilmembers spoke overwhelming in favor of medicinal use. They said there could be an ordinance in the future allowing for those types of dispensaries.