November 16, 2016

In anticipation of the likely success of Proposition 64 to legalize recreational marijuana, on October 25th the COWncil adopted an urgency interim ordinance. It prohibits any commercial or industrial use involving marijuana, including but not limited to manufacture, processing, laboratory testing, labeling, storing, wholesale distribution, and retail as well as all outdoor cultivation of marijuana.
Indoor cultivation of marijuana is limited to residential districts, is limited to six (6) plants per residence, and must be entirely for the personal use of a resident of the residence who is twenty-one (21) years of age or older. This type of ordinance is limited to 45 days. On November 15th after the approval of the proposition by the voters the COWncil extended the urgency ordinance for a period of ten (10) months and fifteen (15) days, or until September 30, 2017.

The COWncil for once reasonably anticipated an issue and took steps to preserve the status quo on an interim basis giving themselves time to take a thoughtful approach.

There are a number of issues to be considered. For one thing, what is the objection to growing marijuana in your back yard for your own use? Certainly, the question of where commercial growing should be allowed is complex but what about locals who want to grow it for themselves and their friends. If allowed what are the limits that should be imposed. If not allowed, will most people realize that they cannot grow a legal plant on their own property. The prohibition is not intuitive since the use of plant is legal. Will we have neighbors reporting neighbors and fines for misunderstanding what is allowed?

Is the County adopting similar regulations since most of the commercial “grow farms” are likely to be in the unincorporated “Woodside” area. Marijuana is a crop, should it be allowed in some areas and taxed? Will legalization eliminate the requirement for law enforcement to deal with illegal grow farms run by armed members of massive organized crime groups such as in 2000 when 12,000 plants were found near Crystal Springs Reservoir. But if cultivation can be done legally won’t this problem be solved?

One issue to consider if some cultivation is to be allowed, is the Town’s fence ordinance. After all a 6 foot fence is not going to keep out humans or deer wanting to help themselves to the plant. The Open Space Committee members who want our properties kept accessible to wildlife should take note since it seems deer and perhaps other critters may develop a substance abuse problem.

Now we hope the COWncil actually take a thoughtful approach.

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