Last night, the Sacramento City Council voted 5-3 approving an ordinance allowing the licensed cultivation of marijuana within the city limits.
The ordinance allows pot growers to apply for conditional use licenses to legally operate within the city limits, and potential licensees would need to include a “neighborhood responsibility plan” to gauge how their business would impact their surrounding communities.
Passage of the ordinance comes two weeks after California voters approved Proposition 64, which allows for the recreational use of marijuana.
Among other regulations included in the Sacramento city ordinance, dispensaries would only be allowed to operate in enclosed buildings. State law prohibits dispensaries from operating within 600 feet of a school.
Councilmember Jay Schenirer crafted the ordinance following the narrow defeat of Measure Y in June 2016. The initiative, also known as the Sacramento Children’s Fund, would have increased the tax on marijuana cultivation to five-percent, with revenue dedicated to children and youth services.
While many local politicians and youth advocates supported the initiative, Schenirer was the only Councilmember to sign the official argument in favor of Measure Y.
“What we are doing I think, is choosing to be responsible”, said Schenirer last night regarding the city ordinance. “Choosing to regulate an industry that currently exists, and as some of the speakers said, is not going away.”
“I think that we do need to protect our neighborhoods”, said Schenirer, “and I think that strict regulation offers us the best opportunity to do that.”
Schenirer also made a point of thanking Councilmember Eric Guerra for working together with him, while acknowledging he has not been able to speak with Councilmember Allen Warren due to the Brown Act. Both individuals represent districts with the highest concentrations of dispensaries in the city.
Warren outlined his proposals in a letter, one of which asking to keep funds from dispensary’s annual licensing fees in the districts where they are generated.
“That would come back in a resolution to this council at a later point,” said Schenirer as he addressed Warren’s proposal regarding licensing fees.
“That would be essential to me,” said Warren.
“I’m one-hundred percent in support of that,” responded Schenirer. “Those funds would stay in the neighborhood or district they are from.”
“I think the district is good enough,” replied Warren.
“Because you’ll have the most funds,” Jay replied.
Schenirer and Warren continued to discuss the letter until Warren decided to discuss the potential impact of the ordinance.
“We need to help people understand the full impacts,” Warren said, “This is not just a money making opportunity for a select group of people.”
Guerra’s comments mirrored Schenirer’s in support of the ordinance.
“For me at least, this ordinance is intended to go after all the illegal marijuana grows in open air,” said Guerra.
Councilmember’s Jeff Harris and Angelique Ashby joined Warren in criticizing the ordinance.
“I feel this proposal is half-baked,” said Harris. “The reason we’ve spent two and a half hours on this already is because we havent done our normal process.”
“If we had time to look at this, and all of you had time to read it, we’d have something really to discuss here,” said Harris. “What we’ve got here is a neighborhood response plan that is marginally legal, maybe not even functional.”
Ashby echoed Warren’s concerns regarding lack of staff to handle new cultivation.
“I sit up here as someone who represents a new growth area,” said Ashby. “The Planning Department is completely overburdened with projects just in my district. I don’t know how we’d shift people around. You can borrow money left, right, and sideways. It’s not going to make any difference when you need to hire people specifically for this function.”
Ultimately, the council voted voted 5-3 in support. Ashby, Warren, and Harris voted against the ordinance.
“This is the best we can do short of going back to the ballot,” said Schenirer.