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Atascadero bans marijuana shops, but you can still grow a pot garden and get deliveries

Marijuana plants at a grow in California Valley in June.
Marijuana plants at a grow in California Valley in June. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Atascadero residents will soon be able to have recreational marijuana delivered to their homes and grow plants in their own yards, but the city remains closed for business when it comes to dispensaries.

City Council members on Tuesday night voted unanimously to pass an ordinance regulating cannabis activities within the city.

“I think we’re headed toward the finish line, at least for this round,” said Phil Dunsmore, the city’s Community Development director.

Atascadero officials have been considering how to best regulate marijuana for months: The city held a series of open houses earlier in the year and then followed them up with two special public meetings in April and August to give staff guidance.

The city is trying to regulate marijuana activities in the wake of Proposition 64, a statewide ballot measure legalizing recreational forms of the drug. Californians approved the referendum in November, and the state will begin licensing businesses in January.

Under Proposition 64, residents are allowed to possess and use marijuana products and can grow up to six plants indoors. Local governments can regulate all other activities.

In January 2018, state and local authorities will begin issuing licenses for the sale of legal recreational marijuana. But what do you need to know before you rush to the dispensary? Information courtesy of Ballotpedia.com.

Atascadero leaders — like many others in San Luis Obispo County — are taking a conservative approach to marijuana regulation, banning brick-and-mortar dispensaries and indoor and outdoor commercial cultivation. Grover Beach is the only city in the county that has approved plans to allow dispensaries.

Morro Bay officials are considering permitting two medical dispensaries, and commercial marijuana sales will likely be allowed in unincorporated areas of the county when the Board of Supervisors passes an ordinance on Tuesday.

Even so, Atascadero officials plan to regulate recreational and medical marijuana in the same way, to make enforcement easier.

We need to make a decision about what we want our city to look like. ...We have to start somewhere.

Roberta Fonzi, Atascadero mayor pro tem

Council members still had additional questions, especially regarding the definition of “private residences,” as city staff suggested limiting deliveries to prevent them from occurring in public places. But they ultimately agreed on the need for an initial ordinance.

“We need to make a decision about what we want our city to look like,” said Mayor Pro Tem Roberta Fonzi. “... We have to start somewhere.”

On Tuesday, council members voted to allow the following activities:

▪  Recreational and medical marijuana deliveries to private residences

▪  Outdoor marijuana cultivation of up to six plants for personal use

▪  Marijuana testing facilities in certain nonresidential areas

Residents growing marijuana indoors for personal use must cultivate their plants in an area of up to 120 square feet that’s not a bedroom.

Outdoor grows cannot be planted in a resident’s front yard, and must be confined to a plot no larger than 120 square foot that’s not visible from the street and is set back 25 feet from adjacent homes and public rights-of-way.

Council members were also interested in learning more about a citywide tax referendum. The ballot measure would include activities not currently allowed in Atascadero, so the city could tax businesses if they permit them in the future.

The city would begin the process of putting a tax referendum on the November 2018 ballot in February, according to a city staff report.

Council members will give the ordinance their final approval at their next meeting on Oct. 24.

Lindsey Holden: 805-781-7939, @lindseyholden27

A close-up look at Forbidden Farms' marijuana growing operation in Shelton and the processing facility on the Tacoma Tideflats in Washington. Owned by the Balduff brothers Garrett and Taylor, the premium producer even supplies cannabis connoisseur

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