Paso Robles officials have moved forward with plans to restrict recreational marijuana and allow public input on medical uses ahead of a state vote that could legalize the drug.
The City Council on Tuesday voted 4-0 — Councilman Fred Strong was absent — to approve the first reading of a zoning code amendment restricting recreational and commercial marijuana uses. Council members also voted in favor of creating a task force to consider separate medical marijuana regulations.
Paso Robles residents can apply to join the task force, which will discuss medical marijuana issues and return with regulatory suggestions in six months.
“Right now, what we want to do is pass (the amendment) so we can have that local control,” Paso Robles police Chief Robert Burton said.
Proposition 64, which will be on California ballots Nov. 8, would legalize recreational marijuana. Medical marijuana was first legalized in the state in 1996.
Under the new state law, local governments would be able to control marijuana sales and cultivation, but residents could possess certain amounts for personal use and could grow up to six plants indoors.
Cities and counties throughout California, including San Luis Obispo County, have enacted regulations ahead of the vote. The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday passed an urgency ordinance banning new marijuana cultivation in unincorporated areas while allowing some existing growers to continue their operations.
Paso Robles officials at previous meetings expressed concerns about potentially grandfathering in grow operations set up prior to regulations being put in place. But medical marijuana patients asked council members to consider separate restrictions for different uses.
“We do believe that having clear regulations in place will prevent out-of-town parties, or anyone, from making large investments ... based on the assumption they might be able to do large-scale marijuana operations in town,” said Warren Frace, the city’s community development director.
The amendment council members approved was more restrictive than the one the Planning Commission recommended in August. Residents who want to grow marijuana plants indoors for personal use would need to apply for a permit. They also would be required to grow the plants in an “ancillary structure” outside the residence, such as a greenhouse.
Burton said mold and electrical issues would be among the concerns the city would have to con front if residents were allowed to grow marijuana inside their homes.
“If we had an option that it’s in an enclosed area, like a greenhouse, we don’t have those health and safety issues for the residents inside,” Burton said.
Council members will move forward with a second reading of the amendment at their Oct. 4 meeting.
Residents interested in joining the city manager’s Task Force on Medical Marijuana can visit www.prcity.com/government/advisorybodies or call 805-237-3888 for application information. Applications are due at 5 p.m. Oct. 12.