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Sonoma readies to pass cannabis ordinance allowing cultivation, no dispensary

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Sonoma’s Proposed Cannabis Ordinance

Cannabis cultivation shall be limited to six cannabis plants per private residence, regardless of the number of residents. The home should be used primarily as a legal residence, as cannabis cultivation is prohibited as a home occupation.

Medical cannabis can only be cultivated by a qualified patient, or a primary caregiver.

For nonmedical use, all personal cultivation shall be conducted by persons 21 years of age or older.

There are conditions regarding the type of building on the property where cannabis can be grown, ventilation, lighting, water and security.

“From the ground level of a street, public right-of-way or adjoining parcel, there shall be no visible evidence whatsoever of cannabis cultivation occurring anywhere on the parcel.”

“A maximum of three plants on no more than 50 square feet in total per parcel with a private residence is allowed for outdoor cultivation of cannabis for personal use.” These three plants are part of the six plants allowed per private residence.

“All outdoor cultivation shall be screened with a solid fence from all public rights-of-way, private access easements, and exterior property lines of the parcel where the outdoor cultivation takes place to prevent any evidence of cultivation being visible at ground level from any adjoining properties, streets, public rights-of-way, school properties, or easements.”

All commercial cannabis activities are prohibited throughout the City with the exception of cannabis delivery services.

Delivery services which must have a state license or local permit, and must deliver medicinal cannabis and medicinal cannabis products to qualified patients and/or primary caregivers within the city; the businesses need to obtain a city business license and pay the requisite city business license tax. Vehicles must be unmarked, and delivery is forbidden between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.

The complete proposed ordinance and staff report can be found at tinyurl.com/y9bjuyen.

The City of Sonoma is moving closer to a comprehensive ordinance on cannabis cultivation, distribution and business in the city, following a lengthy public study process and several City Council meetings. Things will move quickly in the next three weeks, through a Planning Commission meeting and two City Council meetings, on Sept. 24 and Oct. 1, which could result in a new ordinance going on the books before the November election.

Like many cities in the state, Sonoma was forced to evaluate local policies on cannabis in the wake of 2016’s Proposition 64, which broadly legalized non-medical use (i.e. “recreational use”) cannabis consumption for people 21 and older; cultivation of up to six plants both indoors and outdoors per residence; and a state licensing process for cannabis businesses – cultivation, production, marketing, delivery and sale.

But Prop. 64 also gives jurisdictions – cities and counties – latitude to adopt “reasonable rules and regulations pertaining to such personal cultivation, indoor and outdoor.” So while cannabis consumption, cultivation and possession may be “legal,” it is not unregulated, and cities like Sonoma have been grappling with how to integrate an intoxicant long considered illegal into their legal framework.

Shortly after the 2016 passage of Prop. 64, the City of Sonoma imposed two moratoria on cultivation of non-medicinal cannabis, both indoor and outdoor, to allow time to evaluate how to managed the suddenly-not-so-evil weed. (Those moratoria, since renewed, expire on Nov. 5, 2018.)

The City Council held several special meetings to discuss a proposed ordinance. And on May 30, the City Council gave city staff the outlines of its preferred ordinance: six plants per residence maximum (per state law, as specified in Prop. 64), of which three can be outdoors, and a continued ban on cannabis-related businesses inside city limits.

That ordinance has now been produced by city staff, and is available for review on the city’s website at sonomacity.org. The proposed ordinance has two main sections: to allow the cultivation of up to six plants at a residence, three of which can be outside – with extensive qualifications and conditions; and to prohibit all commercial cannabis activities (including dispensaries, retail, manufacturing and testing establishments), “with the exception of deliveries of medicinal cannabis to residents from licensed and permitted cannabis delivery businesses located outside the city.”

At its meeting on Sept. 13, the Sonoma Planning Commission had planned to evaluate the proposed ordinance. At the meeting, which took place after the I-T press time, the commission was expected to discuss the ordinance and recommend its passage or rejection.

According to City Manager Cathy Capriola, “The Commission’s recommendations would be provided to the City Council.”

The Planning Commission’s action will be followed by the City Council’s public hearing and “first reading” of the ordinance at its regular meeting of Monday, Sept. 24. Again, according to Capriola, “The City Council could make changes when the ordinance is considered at the time of the first reading on Sept. 24.”

A week later, on Oct. 1, the council will hold a second reading and vote on whether or not to enact it into law.

If the ordinance is approved by the Planning Commission and by the City Council on Oct. 1, it would take effect 30 days later, at the end of October – less than a week before the Nov. 6 general election.

Sonoma’s Proposed Cannabis Ordinance

Cannabis cultivation shall be limited to six cannabis plants per private residence, regardless of the number of residents. The home should be used primarily as a legal residence, as cannabis cultivation is prohibited as a home occupation.

Medical cannabis can only be cultivated by a qualified patient, or a primary caregiver.

For nonmedical use, all personal cultivation shall be conducted by persons 21 years of age or older.

There are conditions regarding the type of building on the property where cannabis can be grown, ventilation, lighting, water and security.

“From the ground level of a street, public right-of-way or adjoining parcel, there shall be no visible evidence whatsoever of cannabis cultivation occurring anywhere on the parcel.”

“A maximum of three plants on no more than 50 square feet in total per parcel with a private residence is allowed for outdoor cultivation of cannabis for personal use.” These three plants are part of the six plants allowed per private residence.

“All outdoor cultivation shall be screened with a solid fence from all public rights-of-way, private access easements, and exterior property lines of the parcel where the outdoor cultivation takes place to prevent any evidence of cultivation being visible at ground level from any adjoining properties, streets, public rights-of-way, school properties, or easements.”

All commercial cannabis activities are prohibited throughout the City with the exception of cannabis delivery services.

Delivery services which must have a state license or local permit, and must deliver medicinal cannabis and medicinal cannabis products to qualified patients and/or primary caregivers within the city; the businesses need to obtain a city business license and pay the requisite city business license tax. Vehicles must be unmarked, and delivery is forbidden between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.

The complete proposed ordinance and staff report can be found at tinyurl.com/y9bjuyen.

Email Christian at christian.kallen@sonomanews.com.