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Arroyo Grande Planning Commission recommends banning medical marijuana cultivation 

Arroyo Grande is one step closer to banning the cultivation of medical marijuana as city officials attempt to get out ahead of recently passed state legislation.

The city’s Planning Commission voted 3-2 on Dec. 1 to recommend a ban on the cultivation of medical marijuana on any parcel of land in the city by anyone—including collectives, cooperatives, primary caregivers, and card-carrying medical marijuana patients.

Planning commissioners John Mack, Glenn Martin, and Terry Fowler-Payne voted to recommended passage of the ordinance to the Arroyo Grande City Council. Commissioners Lan George and John Keen voted against the recommendation.

City staff, at the direction of the City Council, crafted the ordinance. While some California cities developed policies for very limited cultivation of medical marijuana, the council opted to direct staff to develop one that completely prohibited it. A staff report cited concerns from some citizens that cultivation would create a nuisance and raise safety and security concerns within Arroyo Grande.

“Council consideration included that although there are widely recognized benefits to medical marijuana, growing operations have demonstrated significant nuisance issues,” the report stated. The ordinance, if passed, would create a near-total ban on medical marijuana in Arroyo Grande. The city has already passed ordinances banning brick-and-mortar medical marijuana dispensaries, and also prohibited mobile dispensary services. The ordinance recommended by the commission also prohibits medical marijuana delivery services, in compliance with recently passed state legislation. 

“The next step is for [the ordinance] to go to the City Council for a first reading,” said Teresa McClish, Arroyo Grande’s community development director.

After a second reading and public comment, the council will be able to vote on the ordinance.

The move to pass the cultivation ban was sparked by the passage of new, sweeping regulatory legislation passed by state lawmakers earlier this year. The Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA), signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October, is a package of bills that establishes a detailed regulatory framework for medical marijuana in the state. Under the act, cities like Arroyo Grande still retain local control over medical marijuana but must pass specific laws related to cultivation before March 1.

“MMRSA includes extensive provisions relating to cultivation and contains language that provides that if a city does not have land use regulations or ordinances regulating or prohibiting the cultivation of marijuana by March 1, 2016, … then the state will become the sole licensing authority,” the staff report stated.

If passed, enforcement of the city’s cultivation ban would be enforced on a complaint basis by the Arroyo Grande Police Department and the city Neighborhood Services Department.

The recommendation by the planning commission comes after another defeat for medical marijuana proponents in SLO County. In November, the county Board of Supervisors denied appealed plans for a brick-and-mortar dispensary in Nipomo. In Santa Barbara County, the Santa Maria City Council voted Dec. 1 to ban cultivation, but will allow legitimate medical marijuana delivery services from outside the city to operate in Santa Maria 

The Arroyo Grande Planning Commission’s recommendation is tentatively scheduled to go before the City Council on Jan. 12. 

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