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CA: Mayor Challenges Council On Cannabis Policy

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Katelyn Baker

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The Willits City Council had a spirited discussion at a special meeting Monday night at which Mayor Bruce Burton refused to allow a new ad hoc committee to be formed to study marijuana policy in the city.

Burton has steadfastly held the position that no marijuana cultivation or processing should be allowed in the city (until federal regulations legalize it). He was one of a two-man ad hoc committee that earlier recommended the city ban cannabis growing and processing in the city. The city already bans dispensaries.

The other member of that ad hoc was Councilman Larry Stranske. Strankse, however, joined the other three council members, Holly Madrigal, Ron Orenstein and Madge Strong, Monday night in urging the creation of a new ad hoc commitee to look at allowing some kind of cannabis activity.

But, according to Madrigal, the mayor said no. Burton said he wanted simply to hold public hearings at the city council level and hammer out policy at the dais. Madrigal said the others believe that would not be an efficient way to handle it. They are anxious to get some kind of policy in hand before the November election when not only are much larger marijuana policy issues on the ballot, but a city council election as well.

"The majority is interested in moving this forward expeditiously, at least craft something the next council can choose to take or not take," Madrigal said Tuesday.

The broader question Monday night, and one that had council members a little hot under the collar, was, can the Mayor simply say no to the other four?

Madrigal says City Attorney Jim Lance opined during the meeting that he could, but is researching that for the council.

The City of Willits has a council system in which all members are elected to the council as equals and then one is chosen by the others to serve as mayor in a rotation. The mayor runs the meetings, signs documents and has other perfunctory jobs, but a challenge to the other four council members has not come up in recent memory.

In the end, it was agreed that Madrigal and Orenstein should hold meetings - which will not be called ad hoc committee meetings - with the public invited, to come up with a list of choices for the council to consider, from a total ban to some limited cannabis activity (for instance just on industrial land) or something in between. Another question arose as to whether an informal grouping of two council members can engage staff for help.

"We ended up deciding that majority of the council can, as a deliberating body, ask staff to support council members getting information," Madrigal said. Madrigal said that she and Orenstein plan to bring something to the full council to look at by its Oct. 26 meeting.

"The good news is, we're not reinventing the wheel," she said, noting that a number of small cities have already come up with cannabis regulations to consider.

Neither Stranske nor Burton were available for comment Tuesday.



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Full Article: Mayor Challenges Council On Cannabis Policy
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