Santa Clarita Council mulls Prop 64 moratorium move

A sheriff's deputy thumbs through bagged quantities of marijuana at the scene of a drug bust in Canyon Country Oct. 27, 2016. Austin Dave/The Signal

Proposition 64 was passed by California voters last month, allowing for the recreational use, sale and growth of marijuana.

But, the Santa Clarita City Council appears ready to Just Say No.

Or at least, No … For Now.

The council, during a packed agenda for its only meeting of the month, will consider an “urgency ordinance” on Tuesday, Dec. 13, that would adopt a citywide moratorium on, among other things, recreational retail pot shops in the city — even though such shops don’t figure to be opening anywhere in the state for at least a full year.

The city moratorium would also limit private cultivation to no more than six plants inside, not outside, a residence or in an accessory structure on private property; and ban delivery of non-medical marijuana within the city by state-licensed dealers.

While Prop 64 allows for recreational pot use, it does not strip individual municipalities or law-enforcement authorities from imposing specific restrictions, including the right to ban commercial pot shops altogether.

According a report to the council by city attorney Joseph Montes, “If approved by a four-fifths vote, the Urgency Ordinance will be effective for 45 days’’ – but that, upon any subsequent four-fifths votes, the council could extend that moratorium by 10 months and 15, and then an additional year.

Even though state licensing of pot shops is not expected to take effect until January 2018, the city report labeled the matter “urgent” because “many California cities have experienced negative secondary effects from medical marijuana businesses.’’

Montes’ report includes a long list of attachments, from a 40-plus-page California Police Chiefs Association White Paper to news articles, citing problems such as increased crime and vandalism reportedly attached to the presence of medical marijuana dispensaries.

City law already bans all medical marijuana businesses, and all such cultivation in Santa Clarita.

“Staff anticipates that Proposition 64 will encourage the establishment of various recreational marijuana businesses in the City,’’ Montes’ report says.

It also says the city, “anticipates that many individuals will now begin to cultivate marijuana at their private residences.’’

Under Prop 64, an individual may possess up to 28.5 grams of non-concentrated marijuana or eight grams of marijuana in a concentrated form, such as marijuana edibles.

An individual also may cultivate up to six marijuana plants at his or her private residence, provided that no more than six plants are being cultivated on the property at one time.

The council’s proposed move, the report said, would also provide the council with time to devise local codes regarding private cultivation.

Under Prop 64, cities may ban private outdoor marijuana cultivation, but cannot completely ban private indoor cultivation of six plants or less.

Montes’ report cited safety issues as a key reason for the urgency regarding cultivation.

“Indoor marijuana cultivation sites are often associated with illegal construction, haphazard and unsafe electrical wiring, electricity theft, fires, mold and fungus problems, diversion of public water, pollution of waterways, and excessive water use,’’ the report said.

“Permanent regulations will take time. Based on existing case law, the City Council should treat the regulation of marijuana businesses and cultivation as a land use issue.’’

Councilwoman Laurene Weste is on board with the moratorium providing a window to consider a long-term way to address the Prop 64 issue locally.“We have concerns there will be a rush of non-medical marijuana businesses,’’ she told The Signal. “I can see how it can become, real fast, a large issue if you didn’t get some clear guidance.

“This is going to require some research and study to do what’s best for the community under state law.’’

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