City Council extends cannabis ordinance by two years | August 28, 2019 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

Almanac

News - August 28, 2019

City Council extends cannabis ordinance by two years

by Matthew Vollrath

The Menlo Park City Council voted on Aug. 20 for a two-year extension of the city's current cannabis policy, which prohibits outdoor cultivation of marijuana and smoking it in public, while driving, or while within 1,000 feet of a child care facility.

It also "effectively prohibits state commercial cannabis licenses in the city," John Passmann, a staff management analyst, explained at the meeting. In other words, it precludes retailers from setting up dispensaries, or otherwise selling cannabis products, in Menlo Park.

This policy is in keeping with that of many other cities in San Mateo County. With the passage of Proposition 64 in 2016, all California cities are required to allow cannabis use in homes and indoor cultivation of up to six plants. Most local municipalities, however, have chosen to regulate its sale and its use and growth outdoors because, in Passmann's words, it can be "a bit of a public nuisance."

The city adopted a temporary moratorium in 2016, and extended it for another two years in 2017. The original plan was to vote this month on whether to make the ordinance permanent. After a brief discussion, however, the council decided that additional public outreach is necessary before reaching a long-term decision.

Mayor Ray Mueller said the council had received several emails and phone calls weighing in on the policy, but "not the volume we usually get when there's an uproar."

Four of the five council members generally supported the current cannabis restrictions. As Mueller put it, "Our main concern is keeping it away from our kids." Since children often play in each others' backyards, he said, prohibiting outdoor cultivation would play an important role in this.

Council member Betsy Nash expressed concern that it may be "wrong to prohibit outdoor cultivation, and assume that everyone has adequate space to cultivate indoors if they wish."

The vote to extend the moratorium passed four to one, with Nash dissenting.

During the next two years, the city is expected to conduct public outreach and polling on the cannabis question, and will include it in upcoming reviews of its general and specific plans.

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