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Council says no to marijuana growers

City officials took action last week to retain local control to regulate the cultivation of medicinal marijuana in Ceres.

It will still remain illegal to have a marijuana dispensary in any zone in Ceres. However, that could change if voters approve a proposition next November to legalize pot in the state.

A number of states, such as Colorado have legalized recreational marijuana despite it being illegal at the federal level. California thus far has only legalized medical marijuana and not recreational use.

The Ceres City Council voted 5-0 to make it clear that no zones in Ceres allow the growing or selling of medical pot. Those cities who fail to make that clarification by March 1 could have the state decide for them.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 266, AB 243 and SB 643 which create the California Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act. It takes effect on Jan. 1 and sets up a new state agency and licensing system for the cultivation, processing, transportation, testing and distribution of medical pot to qualified "patients." Cities which don't seize control by March 1 are subject to being trumped by the state as the sole licensing agency and could see dispensaries pop up.

City Attorney Tom Hallinan said the second reading and adoption of the prohibition will be on Jan. 11 since the Dec. 28 meeting has been cancelled for the holidays.

Hallinan said if the voters approve recreational use in 2016 then the city action goes "right out the window."

"You also have the option to scale it back if you so choose," said Hallinan.

City Manager Toby Wells said most cities have gone the same direction as Ceres except for Modesto which has the potential for allowing indoor cultivation.

"They did a workshop instead of going straight (to it)," said Wells.

Ceres resident Len Shepherd liked the council's action, saying "people are using it whether it's legal or not."

Mayor Chris Vierra said he understands those who need pot and grow the right amount but he is concerned about those who "decide 50 or more plants might help pay the rent and the then thieves know it's there and the police are dealing with a big problem."

A Hackett Road mother said she is concerned about a shooting that occurred at a home in her neighborhood where pot is being grown.

"That scares me," said Yolanda Vierra. "I live basically across the street from an elementary school, across the street from a park with a lot of illegal drugs. I get it blown into my yard all the time so it just kind of scares me and I don't want to increase it."