As cities across California weigh regulations on marijuana post-legalization, Foster City is set to ban all commercial cannabis activity and personal outdoor cultivation of the plant after a discussion this week.
“I would encourage us to be conservative in our approach and limit as much as we can,” said Councilman Herb Perez.
It appears Perez got his wish. The rest of the council — with the exception of Charlie Bronitsky, who was absent from the discussion Monday — agreed to take a “conservative approach,” and ultimately directed staff to draft a permanent ordinance banning outdoor growing and all commercial cannabis activity with no plans for a study session on the topic.
Perez cited concerns about road safety as his primary motivation for the moratorium.
“We have people who can barely drive now,” Perez said. “I can only imagine how much worse driving can be (without the moratorium).”
The decision also comes amid uncertainty about how the federal government will proceed with respect to enforcement of federal laws in states that have legalized cannabis.
“With this administration, I’m afraid we’ll run afoul of the federal government, who might have California in their sights and that will bring a whole other host of problems,” Councilwoman Catherine Mahanpour said.
Vice Mayor Gary Pollard, who also agreed with the “conservative approach,” suggested a study session or polling to gauge public opinion on the topic, but polling specifically was shot down by Mayor Sam Hindi and Perez.
“I have zero interest in a poll,” Perez said. “I could care less what the residents think on this particular issue. I’m not interested in spending dollar one or time one on polls.”
The ordinance would be a continuation of a temporary ban the city passed last October, which is set to expire Oct. 6 of this year.
Foster City’s ordinance would not be able to restrict indoor cultivation and personal consumption. Under Proposition 64, adults 21 years or older are allowed up to six plants within a single private residence.
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.
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.
While prospective cannabis businesses likely won’t be allowed to set up shop in Foster City any time soon, Community Development Director Curtis Banks noted that no businesses have approached the city about plans to set up shop in town since the passage of Proposition 64.
The ordinance will be drafted by city staff and presented to the council at a future meeting.