A debate over public safety and allowing cannabis at public events got heated between two Lompoc City Council members during their last meeting of 2021.
The ordinance, which would allow temporary cannabis smoking during large permitted events at three parks in Lompoc, was addressed during the City Council’s Dec. 21 meeting.
Councilmember Gilda Cordova argued that the potential events allowed by the ordinance would be hazardous to public safety. She suggested that large gatherings of individuals consuming an “altering substance,” like marijuana, would draw police officers away from their day-to-day duties, in a town she described as already having enough crime, drug, and gang problems to worry about.
“Is that reasonable to consider that we would be taking officers that could be on the streets of Lompoc, answering to those calls, and now they’re going to be answering—or babysitting an event,” Cordova said during the meeting.
Councilmember Jeremy Ball said that those same public safety concerns already apply to events not under scrutiny, such as wine festivals and the Lompoc Christmas Parade. He also expressed his faith in city officials to handle every proposed cannabis event with public safety in mind before allowing it to occur, pointing to the city’s evolving legislation on cannabis dispensaries as an example.
“There was a time when we had no dispensaries. Now we have a lot. There was a time when we didn’t know how we were going to stand that up, what the regulations locally were going to be,” Ball said. “But all these fine folks at City Hall, in their different departments, had input into crafting what would be a safe approach to having dispensaries in town.”
Cordova reiterated her stance that large cannabis events would deplete public safety resources before Ball pointed out that during the event application process, City Council will have the power to require event holders to hire private security.
“To make it sound like we’re going to have a cannabis event, and our whole police department is going to need to go babysit that event and take all the resources out of our town, I’m not quite sure that’s transparent,” Ball said. “If we’d like to get into the weeds on this, pun intended, let’s talk about the difference between a 2,500 person wine event and a 2,500 person cannabis event. And then let’s go from there.”
Cordova said she would be more than happy to have that conversation “when it’s appropriate, but that’s not what we’re talking about today.”
After further discussion, which included Mayor Jenelle Osborne’s amendment that cannabis events at Lompoc parks should be limited to two per year, the ordinance was passed in a 3-2 vote, with Cordova and Councilmember Victor Vega dissenting.