If local regulations prohibiting commercial activity are not in place by the time the local moratorium expires, a commercial outfit that establishes itself under state law would have the right to stay, Town Manager Kevin Bryant said in introducing the topic for discussion.
For now, use and cultivation of marijuana is illegal under federal law. If the council puts restrictions in place now, local officials will have more control when deciding to relax rather than tighten local restrictions, Bryant said.
"The town has more control to wait until ... the industry has matured to a point where people in the business don't have to collect their cash in a sack" because they can't make use of the U.S. banking system, Bryant said. "It's not unreasonable to take a very measured and incremental approach to adopting regulations. My gut tells me that this area is going to evolve" toward leniency.
Bryant said that in anecdotal conversations he's had with residents who are growing marijuana outside, odor has not been a problem for neighbors if the plants are located beyond property line setbacks.
If a situation does develop in which neighbors had reason to complain, the town would employ its code-compliance enforcement procedures, Bryant said.
During the public comment period, resident Dick Brown, an apparent opponent of local cultivation, noted the points he's made in past study sessions: that the character of the town is at stake; that marijuana is not native to the area; that fertilizer could contaminate water runoff; that cultivation would make unreasonable demands on water supplies; that it could result in solid fences in a town known for open fences; and that, with a value per plant of $2,000 to $4,000, it would invite criminal activity.
Resident Steve Lubin said he agreed with Bryant's approach. "I'd rather have people growing it outdoors than having lights in their greenhouses," he said.
Thalia Lubin said she had mixed feelings. The proposed regulations are "a way of acknowledging what actually exists in town," she said. "I would like see some parameters and regulation if it is going to exist rather than this underground surreptitious activity that's going on."
In discussing what to do, Councilwoman Anne Kasten posed a situation in which some customers go buy some "killer weed" from a grower up near the top of Old La Honda Road, then have a smoke before going back down the hill. Old La Honda is mountainous, twisting and narrow and can be dangerous if driving while impaired.
"I wouldn't want to add to possible problems that we have," Kasten said.
Councilwoman Deborah Gordon noted that she's heard that young adults in their 20s and 30s "are being much more responsible than older people" and more likely to use a ride-sharing company than drive while impaired.
Councilman Daniel Yost, commenting on the dangers to animals of eating marijuana, noted that there are other poisonous plants in town, including rhododendrons, and that maybe the answer is a brochure or handout on the town's poisonous plants.
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