Lathrop may ask vot­ers if they want pot shops

Manteca Bulletin - - Front Page - By JA­SON CAMP­BELL

When the City of Lathrop came up with its med­i­cal marijuana pol­icy sev­eral years ago, the de­ci­sion by the coun­cil was clear – dis­pen­saries and cul­ti­va­tion are not wel­come within the city lim­its.

But now that Cal­i­for­nia vot­ers have ap­proved a bal­lot ini­tia­tive that will de­crim­i­nal­ize the sale, use and cul­ti­va­tion of marijuana for recre­ational pur­poses, the city is be­ing forced to change its tack while at the same time pre­vent­ing a free-for-all for those who wish to take ad­van­tage of the new free­doms the law af­fords.

On Mon­day, Sept. 18, the Lathrop City Coun­cil will re­view sev­eral pro­posed pol­icy changes that will re­lax the pre­vi­ous ban but still put strict guide­lines in place

that will limit how res­i­dents can cul­ti­vate marijuana and the man­ner in which it can be done.

The Lathrop City Coun­cil meets on the first and third Mon­day of ev­ery month at Lathrop City Hall, lo­cated at 390 Towne Cen­tre Drive.

While the coun­cil may not be able to pro­hibit peo­ple from cul­ti­vat­ing marijuana for per­sonal use ac­cord­ing to the new Cal­i­for­nia law, they will be able to de­cide whether to al­low busi­nesses that specif­i­cally cater to the new marijuana in­dus­try within the city lim­its and how they wish to over­see and en­force the re­stric­tions on those busi­nesses.

Ac­cord­ing to the staff re­port pre­pared for the meet­ing, staff is rec­om­mend­ing two op­tions for the coun­cil to de­cide – the outright ban on all busi­nesses en­gaged in com­mer­cial marijuana ac­tiv­ity within the city lim­its, or the de­ci­sion to al­low vot­ers to de­cide whether to al­low the busi­nesses and im­pose a cannabis business tax on en­ti­ties that choose to open within Lathrop’s city lim­its.

Cur­rent Cal­i­for­nia reg­u­la­tions pro­hibit the state from is­su­ing busi­nesses li­censes for marijuana re­lated busi­nesses if those busi­nesses are pro­hib­ited by lo­cal gov­ern­ments, although that may change de­pend­ing on how the State of Cal­i­for­nia de­cides to adopt new reg­u­la­tions for the emerg­ing mar­ket mov­ing for­ward.

Modesto, which by city or­di­nance pro­hibits all marijuana re­lated busi­nesses, just re­cently voted to di­rect its City Clerk to pre­pare an ap­peal to vot­ers to al­low the city im­pose a tax of up to 10 per­cent of gross re­ceipts on all marijuana-spe­cific busi­nesses – money that could then pre­sum­ably be used by the city to en­force regulation on those busi­nesses and any is­sues that may arise as a re­sult of their pres­ence.

If the coun­cil were to choose to ap­peal to vot­ers to de­ter­mine what they would wish to see and pos­si­bly im­pose the marijuana tax on those busi­nesses, a sim­ple ma­jor­ity vote of the coun­cil is all that would be needed to au­tho­rize a bal­lot mea­sure. If ap­proved, the coun­cil would then have to de­cide whether to place the item on the bal­lot for the pri­mary for the 2018 elec­tion or wait un­til Novem­ber for the Gen­eral Elec­tion.

If the coun­cil chooses not to seek the pub­lic bal­lot at this time, they could re­visit the de­ci­sion later if and when com­mer­cial cannabis reg­u­la­tions are ap­proved by the State of Cal­i­for­nia and forced onto the city.

Be­cause Cal­i­for­nia law al­lows the city to pro­hibit uses be­yond what is al­lowed by the state, the cul­ti­va­tion of six per­sonal plants – which is clearly spelled out in the bal­lot ini­tia­tive – can be the limit that the City of Lathrop chooses to im­pose and en­force within the city lim­its. Those seek­ing to grow marijuana in­doors would then, if coun­cil ap­proves the re­quest of staff, be re­quired to get a per­mit from both the City of Lathrop’s Build­ing Depart­ment and the Lathrop-Man­teca Fire Dis­trict be­fore they would be con­sid­ered com­pli­ant with the city’s mu­nic­i­pal code.

And even Lathrop’s outright ban on cul­ti­va­tion has done lit­tle to thwart res­i­dents from grow­ing their own out­door plants ac­cord­ing to Lathrop Po­lice Chief James Hood.

While the tighter reg­u­la­tions against cul­ti­va­tion, which were le­gal un­der Cal­i­for­nia law, were meant to elim­i­nate some of the qual­ity of life is­sues that res­i­dents rou­tinely com­plained about – the smells associated with grow­ing marijuana chief among them – the com­plaints in the last two years have still been con­stant ac­cord­ing to Hood.

The new reg­u­la­tions, which would re­quire cul­ti­va­tion done out­side of a pri­mary res­i­dence to still be con­tained within a locked struc­ture, would elim­i­nate some of those is­sues while also ad­dress­ing the po­ten­tial in­vi­ta­tion to theft and ad­di­tional crime that may come as a re­sult of that.

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