Lompoc will allow cannabis-themed events to occur on a trial basis, a divided City Council decided last week after a heated discussion.
The council voted 3-2 to allow two temporary cannabis events per year, but included a number of restrictions such as designating three parks as potential venues and limiting attendance to 2,000 (or 600 at Ken Adam Park).
Other restrictions would ban smoking during a cannabis event at Ken Adam Park, demand private security at a level ordered by police, and require a medic on site during an event.
The motion also called for a review within 90 days of an event to assess any impacts or benefits for the city and a assessment of the ordinance a year after its implementation.
Mayor Jenelle Osborne along with councilmembers Dirk Starbuck and Jeremy Ball supported the motion while council members Gilda Cordova and Victor Vega opposed it.
Earlier, a motion supported by Cordova and Vega suggested tabling the topic for the time, but it failed on a 2-3 vote.
Possible types of events include conferences, conventions, trade shows and festivals centered on cannabis, according to city staff.
Events could occur at River Park, which has hosted a wine festival and a bicyclists spending the night while on a fundraising ride; River Bend Park; or Ken Adam Park, although fire remains a concern and brush clearance would need to occur, according to the city.
Any cannabis-themed event would be organized by an event coordinator, not city staff. In addition to local approval, the event organizer would need to obtain state permits.
The proposal involves 100% cost recovery for any time involving city staff.
“In conclusion, allowing such events could draw many people to the area which would result in a positive fiscal impact which include the tax revenue from the cannabis business operations, general transient occupancy tax, other associated tourism tax revenues such as gas and sale taxes,” said Community Development Director Christie Alarcon.
This is the second time the council considered the matter, with the council tabling the matter in August.
“The responsibility is on the event organizer to present us a site plan, a traffic plan, impaired driver plan — all of those things are done by the event organizer and they have to meet our requirements,” Alarcon said, likening it to someone seeking a building permit by submitting plans.
Police Chief Joe Mariani, in response to a question from Cordova, said any large gathering would require a significant security presence.
“In this day and age you always have to be prepared whether it’s cannabis or a just regular community event, you always have to be prepared to provide adequate crowd control and to provide for safety for those participating in the event,” Mariani said.
For instance, the city had 26 officers on hand for the city’s holiday parade, including Lompoc officers on overtime plus colleagues from Guadalupe and Santa Maria.
Mariani expressed wariness about the city becoming home to a cannabis-themed event with 5,000 attendees due to security and safety concerns.
Any large event, such as a wine or cannabis festival, typically sells tickets ahead of time so organizers know how many people plan to attend, the chief added.
“Because these events don’t happen throughout the whole region — it’s kind of new to it— I can imagine they’re going to be big draws so you’re going to be have big turnouts,” Mariani said.
Some of the discussion centered on the state of the city’s parks, need for improvements and development of a parks master plan with short-term achievable goals.
Cordova was critical of the proposed venues for the cannabis-themed events.
“I’m sorry but I can’t vote on something that I feel could potentially have negative impacts on the majority of residents of this community,” Cordova said when she made her motion to delay a decision on the topic.
She also noted that cannabis industry representatives have not attended council meetings during discussions about allowing cannabis-themed events.
A cannabis-themed festival or conference may not happen anytime soon. Alarcon estimated the approval process would take three to six months for less than 1,000 attendees, or nine months to a year for events with more than 1,000 attendees.