October 19, 2011 9:18 AM
Beau Yarbrough
Staff Writer

HESPERIA • After months of buildup, more than 100 Hesperians crowded into City Hall on Tuesday night to hear the City Council unanimously reject medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.

Prior to the vote, audience members who spoke were split on the issue.

“If (liquor and cigarette stores) are so numerous,” in Hesperia, “why are people offended by marijuana dispensaries?” asked Oak Hills resident Thomas Adler. “Let’s show the rest of California that Hesperia is a compassionate city that listens to its residents’ needs.”

“We all know who gets hurt when drugs get abused,” said Jim Corcharan. “The user gets hurt. The family gets hurt. The community gets hurt.”

“Ninety-nine percent of the people coming up here and speaking against medical marijuana don’t know what they’re talking about,” resident Dave Madison said. “Not a clue.”

“Marijuana activists have broken the law in Hesperia with an unknown number of outlets,” said Al Vogler, the husband of former Mayor Rita Vogler. “Do the difficult and responsible thing: Vote against the outlets.”

Hesperia has banned medical marijuana dispensaries since 2005. Despite that, the city is home to about a dozen dispensaries. None of them operate with a city-issued business license.

Merely lacking a business license isn’t enough to get a business summarily shut down; it is only a fining offense.

In January, the West Coast Patients Group requested an amendment to city code that would allow dispensaries to be issued a business license.

The Hesperia Planning Commission — an advisory body for the City Council — spent months on the issue, hearing from dozens of residents over the course of multiple meetings.

At the end of its Sept. 8 meeting, the commission voted 3-2 to recommend allowing the dispensaries to be able to receive business licenses.

Tuesday the City Council considered a proposed ordinance that would require that dispensaries be located in industrial zones of the city, at least 600 feet away from residences, parks and K-12 schools and 1,000 feet from Main Street, Interstate 15 and Bear Valley Road.

But if members of the public were split 50/50 at Tuesday’s meeting, the council was united.

“As far as I know, the 11 or 12 dispensaries that are here didn’t follow any of the rules” other businesses do, said Councilman Paul Bosacki. In fact, he said, state law is about collectives and cooperatives, not dispensaries.

“These places are money-generators,” Councilman Russ Blewett said. “They’re not acting as true collectives.”

“State law approves it with very specific guidelines that have yet to be followed,” Councilman Bill Holland said.

“The federal government has said no. The state has said yes,” said Councilman Thurston “Smitty” Smith, “and we, as a city, have a right to say” no.

“Now you come to us and, I guess, beg for forgiveness,” Mayor Mike Leonard said. “I don’t know.”

The council voted against allowing medical marijuana dispensaries to be able to get business licenses with a 5-0 vote.

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