SLO begins talks on new marijuana rules
March 16, 2017
With recreational use of marijuana now legal in California, the San Luis Obispo City Council held a special meeting Tuesday to begin talks on adjusting the city’s cannabis regulations.
Currently, San Luis Obispo prohibits all commercial and industrial recreational and medical marijuana uses, activities and operations. Likewise, the city limits outdoor cultivation of marijuana.
Proposition 64, which legalized recreational use of marijuana, allows cities to regulate cannabis businesses and even adopt outright bans on the sale of marijuana. The law also requires a state licensing scheme for marijuana businesses, which is expected to take effect in early 2018.
The San Luis Obispo council is now in the process off deciding whether the city will allow retail sales, commercial cultivation and other other related uses of marijuana. Additionally, the city must determine if and at what rate it will tax pot sales and whether it will impose environmental regulations that are stricter than existing state law.
For now, the council is opting to keep the city’s existing ordinance. The council wants to receive public comments on possible new regulations before adopting new marijuana rules. The city does not plan to draft a new ordinance pertaining to marijuana businesses until next summer. [Tribune]
On Tuesday, council members indicated initial support for allowing some marijuana businesses to open in San Luis Obispo.
Councilwoman Andy Pease said she supports having marijuana retail stores in SLO but questions whether they belong downtown. Councilwoman Carlyn Christianson recommended the city establish a maximum number of brick and mortar retail stores it will allow.
On the issue of marijuana farming, Christianson expressed concern that outdoor cultivation could be a drain on water and real estate. Commercial agriculture should take place outside the city limits, Christianson said.
Regarding taxation, Pease said, if the city overtaxes cannabis sales, it will send marijuana back to the black market. Assistant City Manager Derek Johnson said studies show, if taxes on marijuana sales reach the high 30 percent range, consumers will instead opt for illegal pot, which they can get cheaper.
Prop. 64 sets a 15 percent state marijuana sales tax. The city can add its own sales tax on top of the 15 percent rate.
Though the city does not plan to make ordinance changes quickly, Councilman Aaron Gomez raised a concern about existing city policy being inconsistent. The city cannot stop the transportation of marijuana on public roads, but it can ban deliveries to individuals and properties within the city limits, Gomez said. Gomez argued the city should not wait a year and a half to address that issue.