The issue of odors — specifically, complaints about the pungent smell of medical marijuana plants being grown outdoors — is set to return to San Luis Obispo City Council chambers in March.
Last May, council members tabled a proposed law that would have severely restricted cultivation and distribution. They asked staff to research ways to address egregious cases of marijuana cultivation that may cause a public nuisance.
In the meantime, the city has received several complaints about two locations in the Foothill and Laguna Lake areas where medical marijuana is being cultivated outside. Odor has been named as a main problem, as well as safety and traffic impacts, said Greg Hermann, special projects manager.
“The city has investigated all of the complaints,” he said, “but has been unable to take any enforcement action beyond working with the neighbors to resolve the issues.”
On Wednesday, the city’s Human Relations Commission held a study session on the issue. Commissioners discussed adding an odor definition to the city’s municipal code, which would define when an odor rises to the level of having a negative impact on a neighborhood.
City staff will use the commission’s feedback to develop a recommendation that is expected to go to the City Council on March 17.
The odor definition would apply to any smells — not just to medical marijuana cultivation. It would include provisions specifying when enforcement actions, such as a notice of violation, could be taken: after three or more complaints from separate households are received, for example.
Last year’s further-reaching proposed ordinance stemmed from a 2013 complaint by residents living next door to a house in downtown San Luis Obispo where residents were growing a dozen 6-foot-tall marijuana plants in the backyard.
The proposal would have prohibited qualified patients or caregivers from growing marijuana outside and limited growing indoors to an area of no more than 50 square feet.
The proposal triggered outrage by medical marijuana advocates, who said the city was over-regulating.
A majority of council members seemed to agree that the referenced marijuana grow was indeed a nuisance that needed to be addressed, but not by banning outdoor growing completely.