City Hastily Adopts Medical Marijuana Ordinance

Rushed by the Clock, Councilmembers Admit Cultivation Rules Need Work

With the clock ticking, the Santa Barbara City Council begrudgingly approved a new medical marijuana ordinance before a state law goes into effect March 1 that would usurp all local control. The council agreed the cultivation ordinance isn’t perfect ​— ​its members worried, along with public commenters Tuesday, about restrictions that could make access difficult for patients who are too ill to grow their own cannabis or travel to dispensaries. They promised to begin the process of amending the rules in April.

The ordinance allows qualified patients to grow 100 contiguous square feet of marijuana indoors or outdoors for personal medical use. Landlords of rental units could allow or prohibit cultivation, and City Hall retained the right to deny a grow if it is deemed a public nuisance. Officials estimated that 90-100 marijuana plants could be grown indoors within 100 square feet. With a 90-day growing cycle and a yield of 1/4 to 1/2 pound per plant, a single cultivator could expect to harvest 140 pounds of marijuana a year with a street value of $560,000. City attorneys said they used information provided by law enforcement to make their calculations. Tuesday’s public commenters said the figures were grossly exaggerated.

Because marijuana cannot be cultivated for commercial use, Santa Barbara’s three permitted dispensaries (which are all in various stages of planning and approval) would have to obtain their cannabis from outside city limits but within the tri-county area. Councilmembers and patients alike voiced concerns about potential hometown impacts that transporting marijuana from other jurisdictions may have. One speaker said she isn’t sure growers outside the city cultivate the same strain of cannabis that has successfully treated her rheumatoid arthritis.

Many questions remain unanswered about how and when the state law will take effect, and how other Tri-County agencies will choose to regulate their medical marijuana cultivation. “It’s complicated,” said Mayor Helene Schneider. “We’re not happy having to do it this way.” Councilmember Gregg Hart agreed. “This isn’t quite right.” Councilmember Randy Rowse stressed the city has already been “pretty accommodating” compared to a number of other nearby cities that have banned cultivation outright.

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