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Santa Barbara City Council Bans Commercial Cultivation of Medical Marijuana

The Santa Barbara City Council voted Tuesday to ban the commercial growth of medicinal marijuana

The vote was 6-1, with Councilwoman Cathy Murillo voting in opposition.

People will be allowed to grow up to 100 square feet of medical marijuana for personal use.

Qualified patients can also buy medical marijuana from up to three dispensaries permitted in the city of Santa Barbara.

The city’s new ordinance, however, prohibits dispensaries from growing the marijuana themselves so operators have to purchase the product outside the city and bring it back. 

“It is complicated,” Mayor Helene Schneider said. “We are not happy to have to do this in this way.”

The City Council raced to pass an ordinance so the city could retain local control over marijuana cultivation and delivery.

Santa Barbara was reacting to three state laws passed in October that reshape medical marijuana oversight. 

Gov. Jerry Brown on Oct. 9 signed SB 643, AB 266 and AB 243, a package of new laws known as the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act.  

AB 243 affects the city of Santa Barbara most. It will require the Department of Food and Agriculture, the Department of Pesticide Regulation, the state Department of Public Health, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the State Water Resources Control Board to create regulations or standards relating to medical marijuana and its cultivation.

Under the bill, anyone could grow marijuana for commercial use in a residential neighborhood. Mobile delivery of marijuana would also be permitted within the city limits by any state licensed dispensary, including delivery by dispensaries existing outside of the city limits.

The city’s ordinance will block that, however, and will go into effect on March 1. 

If the city does not have an ordinance in place by March 1, then the state regulations would be the law of the land.

As it stands now, qualified medical marijuana patients can grow medicinal marijuana at home or purchase it from a dispensary.  

Caregivers will no longer be able to cultivate marijuana on behalf of a client. The city does not want individuals growing medical marijuana for commercial purposes. 

Murillo, who opposed the ordinance, said it was unfair to allow people to grow medical marijuana for their own personal use, but dispensaries are not allowed to grow it.

Dispensaries would have to buy their marijuana outside the city and collectives would be banned in the city of Santa Barbara.

“Let’s give a little here if we can,”​ Murillo said.

Councilman Gregg Hart said the state handed cities a very difficult problem.

“The challenge we have is that regulation at the state level is changing rapidly and it is probably going to change again,” Hart said.

“We are stuck in this problem. We need to do something to preserve our ability to do something unique that fits Santa Barbara. I recognize the tough spot we are in. We didn’t create this tough spot. We are reacting to it.”

Councilman Randy Rowse said other cities have banned dispensaries while Santa Barbara allows three.

“We are being pretty accommodating compared to all of our surrounding agencies,”​ Rowse said.

The city will revisit the issue in a couple of months to see how the ordinance is working.  

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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