By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
City may ban outdoor pot growing
State has year to develop licensing framework
pot plant
While Prop. 64 makes it legal to grow six or less marijuana plants for recreational use, the Ceres City Council is ready to ban the growing of such plants outdoors. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Members of the Ceres City Council signaled on Monday that they want an outright ban on the outdoor growing of marijuana in the city limits following the passage of Proposition 64 that legalizes recreational marijuana for adults.

The council was presented with a number of policy decisions now that marijuana use in California may be expanding with the new law.

Prop. 64 adds sections to the California Health and Safety Code to permit adults 21 and older to possess, transport, or give away up to one ounce of marijuana and up to eight grams of concentrated cannabis. Users who do not wish to buy pot at special marijuana stores will be able to possess, cultivate, and harvest up to six marijuana plants inside the home - or outside as long as the public cannot see it.

Cities cannot ban the growing of pot inside a home but they can place "reasonable" regulations on it, said City Manager Toby Wells. Cities may also ban the growing of marijuana in the outdoors. The Newman City Council, for example, recently made it illegal to grow pot outdoors for either recreational or medicinal purposes outdoors within its city limits. The exception is that cities cannot ban the growing of marijuana under a greenhouse hidden from public space.

Marijuana cannot be sold by individuals unless they are licensed to do so. The implementation of the licensure provisions will be delayed until January 1, 2018 or later.

The new state law does not allow the smoking of marijuana in a public place, including any location where smoking tobacco is prohibited, or within 1,000 feet of a school or youth center, except within a private residence. This section also precludes the possession of an open container and ingestion of marijuana by the driver, operator, or passenger of a vehicle, and on school grounds while children are present. These offenses are generally infractions.

The state's lax attitude toward pot is still in direct conflict with federal law.

"As it exists today, under federal law, it is still a Schedule 1 narcotic, and the federal government still indicates that it does not have any medicinal value and it is still considered a drug that you can be criminally prosecuted for," said Wells.

He said President-Elect Donald Trump indicated he is not opposed to medicinal marijuana but has not commented on recreational use.

Still unknown is how the law will affect commercial growers with regard to federal banking regulations, said Wells, because pot growing is not legal federally.

In 1996 Proposition 215 was passed to legalize medicinal marijuana with no regulations which "really created quite a mess," explained City Manager Wells. In 2015 the Medical Marijuana Regulation & Safety Act (MMRSA) added regulations that provide a robust framework for the sale and use of pot.

On Nov. 8 California voters passed the Adult Use Marijuana Act (AUMA) that changes the rules again. Under MMRSA pot may be taxed but that was undone by AUMA to say medical marijuana cannot be taxed.

Under MMRSA, the state will not issue a license for dealers of medical marijuana unless a city or county license is issued. AUMA changed that to call for the state to issue a license unless a city or county tells the state that they have local restrictions.

AUMA also does not call for the state to come up with its regulations until Jan. 1, 2018.

Prop. 64 decreases the penalty for possession of more than one ounce of marijuana or more than four grams of concentrated cannabis by a minor under the age of 18 from a misdemeanor to an infraction.

Military veteran Armando Alvarete told the council that marijuana has allowed him to cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which occurred after his war experiences in Iraq.

Cary Pope told the council and explained how the use of marijuana helped him cope through onset of Guillain Barre Syndrome disease.

"This is something that definitely helped me and if we can eliminate some pain out of some people's lives I think that that's really what this, to me, is about," said Pope.

Len Shepherd noted how people medicate themselves with alcohol.

"It's a personal thing," said Shepherd. "If you're hurting like this man, damn, give him whatever he needs."

Zach Drivon spoke on behalf of cannabis interested stakeholders. He said the cannabis industry in California is valued between $2.7 and $4 billion and could grow by $9 billion and $15 billion over the next decade.

"Millions of Americans regularly use cannabis to treat conditions, including chronic pain, epilepsy, cancer as well as traumatic brain injury and PTSD," said Drivon.

He said regulation and licensing will bring safe access with complete transparency to law enforcement and "profound tax revenues."

It also decreases the penalty for marijuana cultivation from a felony to an infraction for a minor (any number of plants) and a misdemeanor for an adult (more than six plants), except if the adult has two or more prior convictions for specified serious offenses, registerable sex offenses, or specified environmental crimes typically associated with unlawful cultivation.

The penalty for possession of marijuana for sale or transportation of marijuana is lessened from a felony to an infraction for a minor; and a misdemeanor for an adult except if the adult has one or more prior convictions for specified serious offenses or registerable sex offenses; two or more priors for possession for sale or transportation, respectively; or the offense involved the sale of marijuana to a minor.