Smyth open to talk about pot’s future in Santa Clarita

Customers buy products at the Harvest Medical Marijuana Dispensary in San Francisco in April 2016. Associated Press

Mayor Cameron Smyth stressed the word “nuance.”

He wants to be clear: In the wake of Proposition 64’s passage, legalizing recreational marijuana in California, he does not support Santa Clarita eventually embracing storefront pot shops or large-scale cultivation – “but there’s more nuance to this (cannabis) industry than what many people think.’’

“Ultimately, I don’t know where I’m going to come down on this,’’ Smyth said Thursday in an interview with The Signal.

“(But) before we take a policy position (on the local level), we should do as much research as possible.’’

Smyth’s comments came after the City Council on Tuesday night extended a city moratorium through the end of 2017 on most non-medical marijuana activities. The city currently does not allow medical marijuana shops.

That happened even though pot shops and other reefer-related emporia don’t figure to be opening anywhere in California for at least a full year as the state figures out all manner of regulatory and taxation issues.

Back on Dec. 13, the Council passed a 45-day moratorium, fully expecting to extend it at least once (as happened Tuesday) and perhaps a second time next year – to buy the city time to study Prop 64’s local ramifications, and to see how other cities might be dealing with the matter.

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.

Prop 64 already allows small-scale cultivation of no more than six plants at a private residence – and that’s one area that local restrictions will not be able to touch.

It’s larger-scale stuff that’s on the city’s radar.

“I do not support opening a medical or recreational storefront facility, kind of retail, in the city,’’ said Smyth. “I don’t think that’s appropriate.

“But it’s worth having a discussion about local residents who might already operate a medical (marijuana) delivery business, and have reason to be in the city, as well as those who are considering the manufacturing (of marijuana products).’’

Smyth made distinction between “manufacturing” and “large-scale cultivation.” The former he’s open to, the latter he opposes.

“I don’t support large-scale cultivation, however there are (so-called manufacturing) industries that extract other products out of the plant, whether it be the oils that are used for medical purposes, so I think it’s worth having the city attorney do the research during this moratorium, to see what other cities are doing. How are they finding a balance?’’

As City Attorney Joseph Montes and other city staffers explore the issue during the moratorium, Smyth said, “I’m not committing one way or the other yet, but we should not dismiss anything out of hand.’’

A report last month to the Council by Montes cautioned that, “many California cities have experienced negative secondary effects from medical marijuana businesses’’ – and that non-medical availability could exacerbate those issues.

One big reason for that, Montes told The Signal last month, is that recreational marijuana remains illegal on the federal level, discouraging banks from doing business with recreational emporia and forcing them to become mostly cash businesses – and hence, more susceptible to robberies.

Law-enforcement officials are also only beginning to figure out their game plan as recreational pot moves into the mainstream.

These and other factors will all be considered as the city studies the pot matter during the moratorium.

At least one of Smyth’s Council colleagues, Bob Kellar, is no fan of the new law and plans to make his feelings known as the study period moves along – a dialogue Smyth said he fully expects.

“Speaking for myself, we’re going to work within the law to preclude … to do anything we can do to stop it — anything we can do within the law to discourage it, we will,’’ Kellar, a former LAPD officer, said of recreational pot in the city.

For his part, Smyth said that other than the slew of conversations he’s had concerning the recently filled Council vacancy, “the largest number of meetings I’ve had were with people from this (cannabis) industry.’’

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