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Santa Barbara City Council Looks To Revamp Marijuana Laws

New state laws force city to consider ordinance to ban commercial pot growth in residential areas

The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday directed staff to draft regulations for regulating medicinal marijuana cultivation.
The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday directed staff to draft regulations for regulating medicinal marijuana cultivation. (Noozhawk file photo)

Anyone in a residential neighborhood could grow medicinal marijuana for commercial use, if the city of Santa Barbara doesn't take action to stop it by March 1, 2016.

Santa Barbara City Attorney Ariel Calonne and Assistant City Attorney Tava Ostrenger said a new state law that goes into effect next year would allow the state to solely regulate medicinal marijuana cultivation if the city doesn't have its own ordinance.

Currently commercial cultivation of medicinal marijuana is allowed in agricultural zones, and agriculture is allowed in most residential neighborhoods throughout Santa Barbara

"You could see it in single-family homes, commercial districts and obviously there's a secondary health-and-safety impact that might derive from that," Ostrenger told the City Council on Tuesday.

In response to the new state laws, AB 266, AB 243 and SB 643, signed by the governor on Oct. 9, the council voted 7-0 to direct the city staff to craft an ordinance that does the following:

» Allow for the cultivation of up to 100 square feet of medicinal marijuana for personal use

» Ban cultivation in commercial and manufacturing zones, except at homes within those areas.

» Collectives that grow up to 500 square feet of medicinal marijuana that serve up to five patients would not be allowed, although the council could revisit that matter later.

A map shows the many marijuana delivery companies in Santa Barbara since storefront dispensaries closed down. The city may decide to ban commercial growth of medicinal marijuana in residential neighborhoods. Click to view larger
A map shows the many marijuana delivery companies in Santa Barbara since storefront dispensaries closed down. The city may decide to ban commercial growth of medicinal marijuana in residential neighborhoods. (Contributed)

The city has one permitted commercial dispensary on upper State Street, and two others in the pipeline — one on Milpas Street and the other on De La Vina Street. Those commercial dispensaries would not be affected.

At one point in the meeting, Councilman Randy Rowse wanted to ban cultivation of medicinal marijuana, even for personal use. He said there are already three dispensaries in town. 

"I don't know how many morbidly ill people there are who need to access this, but it seems everyone is in a lot of trouble here," Rowse said sarcastically. 

He said he wanted to preserve the sanctity of the neighborhoods.

"Not 100 percent of the people who live in these neighborhoods are in favor of having these grows next to them," Rowse said. 

Although he pushed hard for staff to draft a ban, he didn't get any support for that, even from the more conservative leaning council members, Frank Hotchkiss and Dale Francisco.

Francisco said regardless of what one thinks about the use of medicinal marijuana, people with a doctor's recommendation should be allowed to grow it for their own personal use. Hotchkiss agreed. 

The council was thrust into the center of the medicinal marijuana debate after the signing of three state bills designed to regulate medicinal marijuana.

AB 266 creates the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation and implements a dual licensing program. Dispensaries must get licenses from their local government and the state of California.

The type and quality of the medicinal marijuana will also be tested. Local rules can be stricter than state rules. This law is not expected to go into effect until 2018.

AB 243 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 a variety of 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. 

AB 243 would be the law of the land if the city does not enact its own ordinance by March 1, 2016. 

Calonne apologized to the council for springing the bills on the panel.

"We rushed this," he said. "We have laid this in the council's lap in pretty loose form."

The council directed staff to start writing the ordinance immediately so that it would have time to go before the city Planning Commission, then back to the council for adoption.

Right now, because the council doesn't meet at the end of December or early January, the earliest — and latest — the council would be able to vote on the ordinance in order for it to go into effect on March 1 is Jan. 12 — the swearing-in ceremony for new Councilman Jason Dominguez.

"Mr. Dominguez, councilman elect, is going to have a fun first day in office," Mayor Helene Schneider joked. 

Dr. David Bearman, a well-known medical marijuana doctor, said he has seen more than 3,000 medicinal marijuana patients in his career, with a variety of conditions, including Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis, attention deficit disorder, asperger's syndrome, autism and other conditions.

"These are patients from all walks of life," Bearman said. "They are our neighbors. They deserve to be treated like patients, not pariahs."

A third bill, SB 643 will require the Medical Board of California to prioritize its investigative and prosecutorial resources to identify and discipline physicians and surgeons who have repeatedly recommended excessive cannabis to patients for medical purposes or repeatedly recommended cannabis to patients for medical purposes without physically examining them.

This bill does not go into effect until 2018. 

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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