Mayor Pro Tem Carlos Victoria displays a bag of cannabis edibles confiscated from a middle school student, along with a guide telling children where to get products, during the Feb. 25 council meeting. (Photos by Sean Roney)

KING CITY — King City Council adopted an ordinance during its Feb. 25 meeting that will allow cannabis retail businesses within the city.

The ordinance will take effect March 26 and allows up to two retail businesses in specific areas, which can include First Street east of Ellis Street or the highway service zone west of Highway 101, excluding Canal Street.

The 3-2 vote saw Mayor Mike LeBarre, Rob Cullen and Carlos DeLeon voting in favor of the ordinance, while Carlos Victoria and Darlene Acosta voted against.

Numerous residents spoke during the public comment section of the meeting, with most speaking out against cannabis dispensaries within the city, citing safety for children as a common concern. Some spoke in favor, citing the benefits of cannabis and the need for adult responsibility.

“I listened to everyone’s comments and I think they brought up very good points. I’m very appreciative of them coming to the meeting,” LeBarre said. “Here in King City, while we may disagree on things, we can still do it in an agreeable manner.”

“I think it’s a horrible thing at the expense of our young people,” said Acosta during her comments from the council.

Acosta asked that the city should at least change the social hosting ordinance to include parents and adults that distribute cannabis to children.

LeBarre said an item would be on the next agenda to create a subcommittee to review the social hosting ordinance. Not only would they review cannabis and vaping, but other items legal for adults but not children, such as e-cigarettes.

Victoria, during his council comments, held up a bag of edibles seized from a middle school student in King City.

“The three of you are putting our youth at the risk of having this,” Victoria said.

Community member Carla Mullanix-Ackerman noted 10-year-olds in elementary schools have been caught distributing vape pens. Meanwhile, King City Union School District Superintendent Rory Livingston said suspensions and expulsions have quintupled due to vaping alone from one year to the next.

“Once the products leave the dispensary, it is out of anyone’s control,” Livingston said.

“It is about adults who do not care about children who will get them, for whatever reason, what they want,” said LeBarre during his council comments. He added, “Prohibition does not work and whether you’re for or against cannabis, 34 states have legalized it. I don’t think it’s ever going to go to illegal again.”

LeBarre closed his comments speaking about the illicit market and how a regulated market will eventually push it away, as had been the case with alcohol and tobacco.

“Over time, more and more people move away from the black market to a dispensary or a delivery, and the black market will start losing revenue,” LeBarre said.

While some products could come from dispensaries and end up in the hands of children, those in favor of cannabis said the larger risk of getting to youth is from illicit sources, as legal markets could be heavily penalized if they were caught selling to minors.

LeBarre noted the black market is mostly run by gangs, which means profit for the very groups the city is working to keep out for safety reasons.

Reflecting on the comments, LeBarre said he is concerned about youth.

“I don’t think there’s enough education with our kids,” he said. “What really is happening to their brains and their bodies?” He noted that he and the council will continue to advocate for education.

Applicants for dispensaries will be rated by a third party, with businesses that meet a minimum required score entered into a lottery for the two permits, with the first two selected being eligible to proceed through the permitting process.

The notice of pre-application process is expected by May 11 and the deadline for applications is currently scheduled for July 9.

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Sean Roney is a freelance reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.


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