Palo Alto takes on marijuana outdoor, commercial growth ban

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Palo Alto’s ban on outdoor marijuana cultivation likely will be extended through 2018, or at least until city leaders sort out some policies.

If Palo Alto does not prohibit commercial cultivation by Jan. 1, marijuana businesses can get a state-issued license and open here, according to deputy city attorney Tim Shimizu.

California voters in November approved Proposition 64, or the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which makes it legal for anyone 21 and older to smoke marijuana.

The law also allows possession of up to 28.5 grams of marijuana, eight grams of concentrated marijuana and six marijuana plants for personal use, as well as legalized commercial cultivation of marijuana. Six marijuana plants are allowed in a greenhouse if locked and enclosed.

A week before the Nov. 8 election, the Palo Alto City Council voted to approve an ordinance that bans outdoor cultivation. The ban is set to expire this November.

City Manager Jim Keene said at a council Policy and Services Committee meeting on June 13 that the recommendation to extend the ban is driven by the city’s desire to maintain local control.

Keene reminded council members that if they enact an ordinance prohibiting or regulating outdoor cultivation and commercial use, they can always make changes later if they decide to allow the activities.

Councilman Cory Wolbach, who chairs the committee, Vice Mayor Liz Kniss and Councilwoman Lydia Kou voted to have city staff draft an ordinance to extend the ban on outdoor cultivation. Councilman Tom DuBois was absent.

Wolbach said the existing ban should not be indefinite and suggested it sunset at the end of 2018, for now.

According to a city staff report, the Legislature is currently working on a clean-up bill to Proposition 64.

“Due to the unsettled nature of state marijuana laws, the city may want to revisit this issue in response to state actions,” staff said in the report.

Though medical marijuana dispensaries are banned, delivery services are allowed in Palo Alto. Council members said at the meeting they plan to uphold that stance.

City staff plans to bring recommendations involving zoning ordinances to the Planning and Transportation Commission this summer before taking an ordinance to the full City Council in September.

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