Grizzly Gazette

Legalization Lights Up Controversy

Drug paraphernalia sits across the street from the 420 Central dispensary on W. Central Ave. in Santa Ana.

Drug paraphernalia sits across the street from the 420 Central dispensary on W. Central Ave. in Santa Ana.

Neitan Mayorga

Neitan Mayorga

Drug paraphernalia sits across the street from the 420 Central dispensary on W. Central Ave. in Santa Ana.

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Customers flocked to dispensaries starting on New Year’s Day after it became legal to purchase recreational marijuana in Santa Ana.

The city of Santa Ana recently legalized the sale of recreational marijuana after a highly publicized debate. The final vote count stood at 5-0 in favor of legalization, with two members not voting on the measure. Although medical dispensaries and collectives were already somewhat prevalent throughout the city, new developments have put Santa Ana in the spotlight statewide.

Absent from the November 9 vote was Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido. Pulido was joined by council member Vicente Sarmiento, who also did not vote on the measure. The ayes took it with votes from city council members: Jose Solorio, Michele Martinez, David Benavides, Sal Tinajero, and Juan Villegas.

Bryan Rivera
Former medical marijuana dispensaries can be licensed for recreational sales including this new shop in central Santa Ana.

Recreational marijuana will be available to those over 21. The biggest new development is the fact that only a state-issued ID is required to make purchases, as opposed to a specially issued medical authorization card.  

Currently, Santa Ana is the only city in Orange County which has authorized the recreational sale of marijuana and is slated to draw in customers from the greater Southern California area. The move is justified by claiming an increase in small businesses and revenue that the marijuana industry could bring Santa Ana.

Kevin Pola, a teacher at Godinez, said, “I don’t think they should be near schools or they should be advertising any of the locations near schools. For medical reasons I could see where it could help people that have certain medical conditions other than that I’m not a fan.”

According to the official ordinance, the city is set to make 9.1 million to 20.25 million dollars per year from the revenue of recreational marijuana. 23 Retail storefronts were approved, and 20 licenses can be issued authorizing indoor cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution.

“It’s good for the economy, and it’s not like it’s telling kids to go buy some weed, it shows them that they can, when they are 21, like alcohol,” said senior Emilia Soto.

Since Proposition 64 passed in November of 2016, many city governments have been moving towards enacting new marijuana policies. Several votes on the issue received strong support from the Santa Ana city council.

As one dispensary owner said who asked to remain anonymous, “The city of Santa Ana was smart because instead of letting the people decide what they wanted with the whole legalization of  recreational marijuana, they took initiative and took a vote to create a set of laws to control weed dispersion in the city before dispensaries could propose a plan themselves.”

The legalization of marijuana, although passed via a unanimous vote, is hardly free of controversy. Ease of access to a former schedule I narcotic has set off alarm bells for some Santa Ana residents. As a result, cannabis dispensaries are restricted to industrial zones, and cannot operate less than 1000 feet away from schools, parks, or residential areas.

Neitan Mayorga
Drug paraphernalia found at Centennial Park which is located right behind Godinez Fundamental High School.

We asked students at Godinez about their thoughts on new marijuana shops opening in Santa Ana. Every student interviewed has strong thoughts about the new shops in Santa Ana.

Senior Alejandro Diaz said, ¨it is really difficult to describe because while marijuana is legal now it is hazardous to several people.¨

Senior Julissa Zamudio said, “It’s inappropriate because its mostly children that will be passing by that shop and be curious what’s going on and then they will be exposed to a drug which is not good.”

When asked about pot shops being around elementary schools, junior Michelle Arcos said, “It’s a bad influence for the little kids because they can see the pot shops.

Junior Jose Ramirez chimed in, “It’s fine that they are around elementary schools just as long as kids do not go near them.”

For Godinez administration, marijuana legalization will largely mean business as usual. There is established protocol for drug offenses. As Principal Jesse Church put it, “If they’re caught in possession of marijuana, school police may be called, parents will certainly be called, the student will be suspended.” In addition, Church said that drug offenders would be referred to diversionary programs established as a joint venture between the city and the district.

Although new policies in favor of legalization have received support at the ballot box, it is difficult to ascertain whether recreational marijuana will see the same kind of support in practice.

Neitan Mayorga
Marijuana shops will continue to pop up throughout the city as it distributes up to 20 licenses including this location.

The marijuana industry now faces the challenge of changing its image to align with its newfound legitimacy. Cannabis sales and production have long been relegated to the shadows, and regardless of its legality, the unsavory image persists.

Officer Nadeau, the school resource officer for Godinez, reflects part of this in terms of law enforcement. “It’s made our job tougher because the laws and the rules are much different now,” said Nadeau. “Now that it’s legal, it’s kind of tied our hands.”

While law enforcement may find it challenging to adapt to new laws and regulations, those in the marijuana industry differ in opinion. “Nothing’s really changed,” said one shop owner. “Most of  the recreational shops that are opening  are operated by current medical shop owners, such as 420 Central. Recreational sales  of cannabis also hasn’t  affected the city as much because they have taken the steps to make sure that dispensaries are not operated illegally.”

Although cannabis remains legal for the moment in Santa Ana, it will remain a subject of heated debate. Recently, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has shown a willingness to backtrack the tone of the federal government towards marijuana legalization. Sessions, a longtime critic of marijuana, stands in a strong position to take the fight to states like California and Colorado.

Since Santa Ana threw its hat into the ring, the city is now an important piece of the great question of marijuana.

Any decision made with regards to the industry, be it statewide or nationwide, will affect local jobs, citizens, and business owners.



12 Responses to “Legalization Lights Up Controversy”

  1. Roman Arcos on March 28th, 2018 11:30 am

    In my opinion, it does not really matter where marijuana shops are placed because everywhere children,teens,and adults go marijuana will always be present. Some children are precocious due to the environment and the place they live in, so marijuana and marijuana smell won’t be a new thing to them. I think it is no surprise that marijuana shops are legal now because even though it was illegal it was very feasible to attain marijuana and find people smoking it.

  2. Alondra Bahena on March 28th, 2018 12:07 pm

    There is a lot of consternation towards this topic. I believe the location of the dispensaries does not matter because if people want it, they will get it. There are comments towards the shops influencing people around them, but there is literally liquor stores on every corner here. You’re not going to see a 5-10 year old buying marijuana just like you wouldn’t see them buying liquor. Most times they are not feasible of getting it. The position it is in does not change a persons wants or needs, if they want it, they will get it.

  3. Roberto on March 30th, 2018 8:47 am

    In my opinion this topic is very perverse because although there are many people that would like despenseries in every coner of the city there are many people that disagree with this idea. I believe we should quell the despenseries because although they may cause good for many people, they also cause many harms to the adolecents.

  4. Saray Castro on March 30th, 2018 9:06 am

    Personally speaking, changing the location of marijuana shops does not make a significant difference just because it is so feasible to get your hands on it. Yes, it would be better to not have shops near schools or anywhere that is mostly occupied by minors but the reality is that we are all exposed to it now that it is legal.

  5. Jhoel Muniz on March 30th, 2018 10:04 am

    I believe that shops selling marijuana will affect the way people see Santa Ana, in other words, I think adding marijuana dispensaries will exacerbate problems with people who are drug addicts. If someone is addicted to drugs and there is a way for them to legally attain drugs, it might cause a problem for the dispensaries because they would need to oust them because some addicts may tend to be aggressive. Also, I think it is a bad idea to put them near schools because kids might get curious about what marijuana is and just like alcohol, kids might find ways to obtain marijuana illegally.

  6. Gabriela Tapia on March 30th, 2018 10:09 am

    This article was interesting on this ongoing topic that is very debatable. Having marijuana legalized had made this topic ever more confusing for society to accost and understand. Opening up a plethora of shops in Santa Ana and around underage children is not horrible because there is no sort of motivation occurring for them to attend these places. After school parents are responsible for there actions and administrators are only responsible for inside the school realm.

  7. Daniel Sagrero on March 30th, 2018 10:48 am

    Location of marijuana shops doesn’t stop students from purchasing the drug whatsoever. Anywhere a shop is placed students will flock and purchase it anyway. One way to help is to terminate shops like these, but yet again some people need shops like these because it is a prescription. Students should really eschew actions like this, but it is there choice because they have free will. Personally I’ve never seen marijuana as a bad drug due to the fact that it doesn’t really have a chance of killing you. Yet as other risky drugs that can get highly addictive do have that risk.

  8. Gloria Mosdri on March 30th, 2018 11:05 am

    In my opinion is that it does not matter where marijuana shops are located because wherever children,teens,and adults go marijuana will always be known. Some children are precocious due to the environment and the people they call their friends, so marijuana and the smell won’t be a new thing to them.I believe that whether marijuana and marijuana places are illegal now it would not matter because people would still be able to get their hands on marijuana at a teen and adult age.

  9. Mariana on March 30th, 2018 11:07 am

    The location of the marijuana does matter where they are being placed, for example, if a 420 place is located near a school it provokes students to want it creating an addiction and exacerbating the addiction for other people.

  10. david on April 10th, 2018 12:08 pm

    I think that marijuana shops and the legalization of marijuana may cause problems to the community. Many people are exposed to it, and anyone can get a hold of it. I believe that the people at marijuana shops need to be more pernicious about the selling of the drug. I agree with Mr.Pola , the shops should not be close to schools because it lead to under age kids getting a hold of marijuana.

  11. JaeLyn Sandoval-Rios on April 12th, 2018 7:53 am

    In my opinion, medical dispensaries can be good for the economy. It is a way to make much more money. It can also be harmful for children and teens. No matter where the dispensaries are placed teens and children will still be able to get hold of marijuana. Teens today will buy marijuana from a confidant. Teens also know that the possession of recreational marijuana is reprehensible but still decide to possess it.

  12. Karen Hernandez on April 13th, 2018 3:03 pm

    I do not think that the spots where marijuana shops are placed influence kids or teenagers to automatically smoke. To several people it may be a chagrin that these shops are placed close to schools. Many children are exposed to other things just as bad as the effect of marijuana, for example when going into a liquor store, they are exposed to all of the alcohol, but they are not allowed to buy any. Just as if an underage teenager would not be allowed to buy cannabis. Just as any other bad influence, marijuana can be harmful to a person when they become addicted. If people want to quell the use of marijuana, their shouldn’t be any shops selling cannabis.

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Legalization Lights Up Controversy