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Central Coast cities pass 'urgency ordinances' to forestall commercial cannabis

Greta Mart
The city's temporary ban posted on Soledad City Hall's public notice board.

Before and after the recreational use of cannabis became legal in California with the passage of Proposition 64, officials in several Central Coast cities have passed urgency ordinances to temporarily ban commercial cultivation and distribution of the plant. 

California cities, towns and counties cannot outright prohibit indoor cultivation in private homes. Anyone 21 or older can now grow up to six plants inside. However, at the moment local governments can regulate or prohibit outdoor commercial cultivation, processing and sales, through temporary bans in the form of urgency ordinances, or regular ordinances. Paso Robles passed such an ordinance on Oct. 4, prior to the passage of Prop. 64.

Santa Maria passed an urgency ordinance on Aug. 16.

"The City Council finds there is a current and immediate threat to the health, safety, and welfare of City residents arising from the risks associated with the manufacture, processing, laboratory testing, labeling and storing of cannabis, whether medical or recreational," Santa Maria's ordinance reads. "Citywide prohibition of all activities, from cultivation to point of sale, is proper and necessary to avoid the risks of criminal activity, degradation of the natural environment, malodorous smells and indoor electrical fire hazards that may result from such activities."

According to the city of Soledad's urgency ordinance, locales aiming to permanently ban commercial grows and retail shops must do so before the “state establishes its regulatory and licensing requirements.” Once the state starts issuing business licenses, municipalities can’t pass any new restrictive laws.

Solvang's city attorney said, in recommending an urgency ordinance extension to Sept. 2017, "failure to extend an urgency ordinance could lead to the establishment of uses that the City later wants to forbid or regulate and enforcement costs would increase as well as the City suffer from the effects of unregulated uses."

The Pismo Beach City Councilvoted Tuesday night not to extend its urgency ban relating to cannabis. In November, the council established a 45-day moratorium, with the expressed intent to enact a permanent ban in the future.

A bid to extend the ban this week did not pass. The Nov. 8 election brought a new member to the council, who voted against renewing the city's urgency ordinance. The moratorium required four yes votes out of five to pass, and just three Pismo Beach councilors voted to renew it. That paves the way for potential commercial cultivation and retail shops in Pismo Beach in the future.

Regardless of individual municipal laws, no retail cannabis stores will open in California until 2018, under Proposition 64 rules.

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