As communities around California prepare for recreational cannabis sales, Petaluma officials Monday began to craft a policy to regulate the burgeoning industry.
The city is forced to confront the issue after the November passage of Prop. 64, which legalized the sales and possession of recreational cannabis within certain parameters, but left some control in the hands of local jurisdictions. Under Prop. 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, it is not yet possible to purchase marijuana without a doctor’s recommendation. The state is expected to issue licenses for recreational cannabis businesses as soon as Jan. 1, 2018.
“We need to look at those regulations so that we can make appropriate changes allowing for local preference in the ordinance before the retail and commercial portion of Prop. 64 goes in to effect,” City Manager John Brown said. “If we do not take the opportunity to do that, what we end up with is state regulations and not local regulations, and that’s something that we very much want to avoid.”
Attempting to strike a balance between honoring the will of local voters, who backed Prop. 64, with quelling community nuisances and maintaining public safety, the majority of the council favored allowing a few Petaluma-based cannabis delivery services. The council also supported exploring opportunities for cannabis manufacturing industries while continuing to impose stringent limits on residential cultivation to the state-mandated six plants.
Cultivation outside residential areas would not be allowed. An ordinance to solidify that is expected to come back for approval Nov. 6 in order to be in effect by the new year.
Petaluma has long tread cautiously through the nebulous waters of cannabis policy. In 2007, the city banned brick-and-mortar dispensaries, but in 2016 it reshaped its policy to allow for medical card holders to cultivate three plants and delivery from outside of the city to medical users and caregivers.
In Petaluma, 62 percent of voters supported Prop. 64, though marijuana is still illegal at the federal level. Several entrepreneurs have expressed a desire to open businesses in the city, though they have been turned away amid current restrictions, said Economic Development Manager Ingrid Alverde.
Amy Levine, a Petaluma lawyer who spoke on behalf of another resident with aspirations to manufacture and sell a cannabis-infused healing salve in the city, said she has been discouraged by a myriad of state regulations and the local ban.
“(My friend) has formed a company, gotten a business partner, made a website, talked to an accountant and wants to apply for a license when it opens in January,” she said. “The real obstacle we’ve found is finding a place to open the business.”
Following a June cannabis workshop, city staff delved into a host of issues including crime associated with cannabis, how cash flow is handled in a market that can’t legally use banks, how other cities deal with cannabis permits, public safety and health issues and federal crackdowns.
The council and public were divided at a Monday meeting where that information was presented. Mayor David Glass took a largely hard line stance against welcoming cannabis into the city amid uncertainty about how the Trump administration will deal with jurisdictions that adopt policies shirking federal law. While he asserted he has nothing against the cultivation and use of marijuana, he said the potential negative consequences are too great.