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City council to consider medical marijuana regulations 

medical marijuana in Paso Robles
Paso Robles considers ordinance for cultivating medical marijuana

Regulations would limit or ban cultivation of medical marijuana for personal use

–The Paso Robles City Council on Tuesday night will consider passing a ban or regulating medical marijuana cultivation for personal use. Last month, the Paso Robles Planning Commission voted to forward both options to the city council.

At the planning commission meeting on Dec. 22, city staff gave the commission two options to consider:

  1. Option “A” – Medical marijuana cultivation ban
    This ordinance section could be modified to include prohibition of medical marijuana cultivation. This would not deny the ability of legal procurement to those who are permitted to consume or possess it since delivery services are not prohibited in the city.  Other jurisdictions in the county are considering similar regulations to ban cultivation.
  2.  Option “B” – Limited personal cultivation exception
    The city may want to include limiting the square footage and the number of individual plants permitted for this use within a home.  If this is the direction the city would like to move towards, the City Attorney and Police Department recommend that indoor cultivation only permit up to a maximum cultivation area of 50 square feet, and no more than 10 individual plants. This is consistent with at least 16 other cities regulations on personal cultivation standards that staff has researched. It appears that 50 square feet provides a sufficient amount of area to meet the needs for personal use. State licensing requirements would not change.

After hearing public comments on the matter, the commission voted 4-3 to forward both options onto the city council, as the city staff recommended. Commissioners supporting the ban and regulation options were John Donaldson, Bob Rollins, Darrel Cooper and Thomas Burgett. Commissioners opposed to the motion were Scott Brennan, Doug Barth and Vince Vanderlip. The city council will meet Tuesday, Jan. 5 at 6:30 p.m.

The state adopted the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act in October which allows city and county governments to adopt local ordinances to regulate medical marijuana by March 1, 2016. If local regulations are not in place by then local communities and jurisdictions will be required to comply with state mandates.

“If the city doesn’t regulate the cultivation, then the state will dictate what we can or can’t do,” says Paso Robles Police Chief Robert Burton said. “Once an ordinance is on the books the city can loosen or restrict the cultivation based upon the best interest of the community. We have no idea what the state rules will be, and if the rules are contrary to what our residents need or desire, we will ultimately have no ability to make changes.”

The Paso Robles City Council decided in August of 2014 to allow mobile dispensaries to operate within the city; but the city maintains an ordinance prohibiting brick and mortar dispensaries. Opposition to mobile dispensaries had stemmed from concerns about increased crime. “At this time, I know of no additional costs accrued due to the decision to allow mobile dispensaries to operate,” Burton said. “Fortunately for us, we have not seen an increase in violent crime associated with mobile dispensaries.”

The police department documents a few complaints related in marijuana cultivation:

  • 2014:
    • One from a landlord stating that his tenants did not disclose they were growing marijuana.
    • Three from growers reporting the theft of their plants.
    • One from a neighbor who thought the business was a medical marijuana dispensary and the smell from the plants was overwhelming.
  • 2015:
    • Three complaints were regarding a single address about the strong odor and questions about the legality of the backyard grow.
    • One complaint was from a person who was growing marijuana and someone was stealing his plants. One additional complaint was from this person’s neighbor reporting people in her backyard attempting to steal plants from next door.
    • Two complaints were from neighbors of different marijuana grows who complained about the odor and about the legality of the backyard grow.

 

“In addition,” said Burton, “this year we had a residential structure fire where we found a large indoor marijuana grow. The fire originated near the grow, but the fire was classified as undetermined.”

Federally, growing and possessing marijuana remains illegal.

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About the author: Reporter Jackie Iddings

Jackie Iddings is a contributing reporter and photographer for the Paso Robles Daily News.