I was going to not post anything this week because of my general policy on not posting on days when school is out, but this is kind of a big deal. At the Planning Board tonight there will be discussion about closing a loophole in Alameda’s zoning code . The type of activity to guard against squeezing in through the loophole? Commercial cultivation of marijuana.
From the staff report:
In recent months, the State Legislature has adopted three pieces of legislation that seek to implement a plan to provide for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need of marijuana in California.
AB243 establishes a regulatory and licensing structure for cultivation sites under the Department of Food and Agriculture.
AB 243 includes an important regulatory deadline for local governments. AB 243 contains a provision stating that cities, if a city or county does not have a zoning ordinance regulating cultivation, then the State will become the sole permitting authority as of March 1, 2016. The assembly bill author has committed to change this section, but representatives from the League of California Cities have contacted local governments throughout California, advising them to enact emergency ordinances so they will have provisions in place prior to the March 1, 2016 deadline in the event that the State does not amend that section of AB 243 in a timely manner.
That’s the background and here’s the recommendation:
Given the rapidly and continually changing State regulations on the issue of marijuana and the specific concern with AB 243 regarding State and local licenses for cultivation, staff is recommending that Planning Board recommend that the City Council adopt a prohibition on commercial cultivation of marijuana in Alameda.
Currently, the City of Alameda Zoning Code permits “agriculture and horticulture” in all residential districts and most commercial districts in Alameda. An immediate and explicit prohibition on marijuana cultivation throughout the City will ensure that:
- The Alameda community will not be faced with a situation in April or May of 2016, whereby a commercial cultivation operation requests a business license for an inappropriate location in Alameda and makes the argument that the City must issue the business license because “agriculture” is permitted by right and the zoning ordinance does not explicitly make a distinction between agriculture and marijuana cultivation.
- The Alameda community will preserve the opportunity to have a more robust discussion about medical marijuana dispensaries, cultivation, and delivery at a later date when the State’s regulatory structure becomes clearer. At that future date, the community, the Planning Board and the City Council may choose to consider alternative regulatory approaches which might allow certain services or facilities at certain locations under specific conditions and through a specific public review process. For example, the community could decide at a future date that indoor commercial cultivation might be appropriate with a conditional use permit in specific locations, such as the Harbor Bay Business Park or Alameda Point.
It’s unclear why — unless staff believes that this City Council won’t be able to come to consensus in three months — that this initial step is dispensed with and a discussion on the policy around pot cultivation happens now. It would seem that any decision now, even one that is supposed to be a stop gap would muddy the waters when it comes to a discussion about which policy direction this Council would like to go in with regard to commercial cultivation of marijuana. A temporary moratorium would be a be a better option until such time that the community has a chance — given that attitudes about the legalization of marijuana has vastly changed over the years — to express their opinions on the issue.