CA: City Considers Cannabis Regulations

Photo Credit: Associated Press

The Foster City Council is set to decide if and how it wants to regulate personal cultivation of cannabis, whether it wants to ban or regulate cannabis businesses, including medicinal ones, and if it wants to propose a local tax cannabis measure for voter consideration.

Vice Mayor Gary Pollard said he wants Foster City’s policies with respect to marijuana cultivation and sales to be modeled after nearby cities.

“I don’t want to be the lead city on this because if we have a policy that allows for cannabis and other cities don’t, then we’re inviting a lot of activity here that could cause stress on our resources,” he said, adding that Foster City wouldn’t be reliant on the potential tax revenue from commercial cannabis.

“Tax wise we have other things within the parameters of the budget we’re looking at,” he said.

The council is set to review and discuss the possible regulations at its Monday meeting. Cities in San Mateo County have taken various approaches on new rules. Burlingame, East Palo Alto, Half Moon Bay and Woodside have interim bans on commercial activity, with the intention of further research. Several cities, including Belmont, Colma and San Mateo have prohibited commercial cannabis businesses. Others have allowed some aspect of commercial cannabis such as San Carlos, which allows commercial cultivation, manufacturing and testing subject to regulation and zoning but is not allowing retail storefronts. Pacifica voters approved a local tax on marijuana operations in November and Redwood City is taking a phased approach to consider storefront retail in 2019 while allowing deliveries but banning cannabis businesses. Only Belmont, Brisbane and Pacifica allow outdoor cultivation, with all other cities and the county requiring indoor cultivation, according to a staff report.

Last October, before the passage of Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, Foster City enacted a temporary ban — set to expire Oct. 6 this year — on all facets of commercial cannabis cultivation, outdoor personal and medicinal cannabis cultivation and delivery of non-medical cannabis, according to a staff report.

Pollard said the purpose of the temporary ban was to buy the city time to study and discuss the effects of cultivation before legalization.

“I don’t think there’s a sense to ban it period,” he said.

At the previous meeting on the topic in August of last year, the council postponed any decision on whether to permanently adopt any cannabis regulations or ban, as the entire council was not present.

According to the staff report, various concerns with respect to potential regulations include, security, aesthetics and odor with respect to personal outdoor cultivation. For personal indoor cultivation, enforcement will be a challenge inside private homes. As for indoor commercial cultivation, the primary concern is whether buildings meet fire prevention and health safety requirements, and for outdoor commercial cultivation, security is a major concern, especially if the operation is visible from nearby properties, according to the report.

Under Proposition 64, adults 21 years or older are allowed up to six plants within a single private residence. If those plants are indoors, they are subject to regulation, but not a ban, by the city, and if they’re outdoors, they can be regulated or banned. If a city does ban personal outdoor cultivation, it will be ineligible to receive state grant funds from a state excise tax, according to the report.

The current state law also allows people to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and smoke it in private residences or licensed businesses; but it would remain illegal while driving, in public, or anywhere tobacco is illegal.

So far, Pollard said he’s not hearing much from residents in the way of concern or demand for the various potential regulations.

In other business, the council will have a second reading on placing a $90 million bond measure to improve the city’s existing levee to meet Federal Emergency Management Agency standards on the June ballot.

The council meets 7 p.m. Monday, March 5, at City Hall, 620 Foster City Blvd.