A group of ladies in Lompoc are famous for pulling a saloon right off its foundation and dragging it, with whiskey pouring out, down the street in 1885. Lompoc had been founded as a temperance colony that completely prohibited alcohol. But Prohibition against alcohol passed away in Lompoc in 1933, as it had everywhere in the U.S., and the city now boasts itself as wine- and beer-crafting tourism destination.
In November 1996, a majority of Santa Barbara County voters passed Prop. 215 to legalize medicinal cannabis, but the leaders of Lompoc for over 21 years banned the people from having that safe and legal access. Finally, in November 2016, the people of Lompoc voted with a 57 percent majority to pass Prop. 64, legalizing and regulating adult-use of cannabis and ending the prohibition once and for all.
The city manager at the time, Patrick Wiemiller had responded to Prop. 64 — as did Lompoc Police Chief Pat Walsh, former Lompoc Fire chief Kurt Latipow, and City Attorney Joe Pannone — by introducing a shameful ordinance that would have banned every aspect of what the people voted to legalize, with the exception of state mandated activities, which the city had no power to stop.
The Lompoc City Council viewed this proposed ordinance as over-burdensome and out of touch with the spirit of Prop. 64. The council voted unanimously to deny it and formed an ad-hoc committee to focus on an ordinance more in touch with the people’s desires. What followed was a six-month process of meetings to discuss cannabis and how a new ordinance should be directed to honor the will of the citizens — a process in which those opposed to legalized cannabis chose not to participate.
What resulted was a recommendation from the ad-hoc committee to fully legalize and regulate cannabis. On October 17, 2017, councilmembers Jim Mosby, Dirk Starbuck, Janelle Osborne, and Victor Vega, respectfully, voted to pass Ordinance No. 1640(17). The lone vote of dissent came from Mayor Bob Lingl, who admitted to being ignorant about Prop. 64 and cannabis.
However, like the building-pulling ladies of Lompoc’s history, a faction of citizens supported and enabled by Mayor Bob Lingl attempted one last time to block the progression of legalized and regulated cannabis with a sneaky voter signature initiative. It seemed furtive because Lingl refused to state who was involved. When the signatures were collected at Walmart, people wrote at our Facebook page that signature-gatherers lured people in by first saying they had a petition to repeal a gas tax.
Although Lingl’s group was successful at delaying the ordinance for a couple of months, ultimately they joined the conversation about cannabis about a year too late and 200 signatures short of figuratively repeating history.
The failure of the group behind the referendum to secure a mere 10 percent of voters to block Ordinance 1640(17) sent a clear message that the People support legalization and a free market.
On January 16, 2018, with the announcement from the Lompoc City Attorney that the referendum failed to gather enough valid signatures, legalized and regulated cannabis established its presence in Lompoc history.
Medicinal patients now have a path to safe and legal access for the first time in over 21 years, the 57 percent of Lompoc voters who passed Prop. 64 were honored, and the City Council majority was issued a seal of approval from the public regarding their passage of the ordinance.
Lompoc can now look forward to new industry jobs offering higher salaries, better benefits, and a boost to the local economy — positive changes for both the city and its citizens.
A culture that has remained underground for decades now has the opportunity to arise from the shadows of prohibition like a shoot budding in a new industry in the Valley of Flowers.
Joe A. Garcia is president and founder of Lompoc Valley Cannabis Coalition for Safe Access.