Arroyo Grande will ban all medical marijuana cultivation in the city, following similar decisions made by two other San Luis Obispo County cities last week, while Morro Bay followed Grover Beach’s lead by exempting some at-home cultivation.
The Arroyo Grande City Council voted 3-1 Tuesday night — with Councilman Tim Brown dissenting and Mayor Jim Hill absent, to approve an ordinance banning all medical marijuana cultivation in the city. The ban still must return to the council for final approval Jan. 26.
The new ban will likely be complaint-driven, however, and Brown stressed that he hoped it would not impact those residents growing marijuana in their homes in small quantities for personal use.
“I hope that we decide for the little old woman or the little old man or the person with cancer who’s got a couple of plants, that we don’t even give them penalties for this,” Brown said Tuesday night. “It’s my hope that going forward with this that we use it on a complaint-driven basis and nothing else.”
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I’m very concerned that in trying to correct some problems, we are doing a great disservice to people who are sick or suffering from serious conditions.
Judith Bernstein, Arroyo Grande resident
The ban is one of a handful being passed or considered in the county this month in light of the California Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, which set a March 1 deadline for local governments to have laws in place that govern medical marijuana cultivation or the state Department of Food and Agriculture would become the sole licensing authority by default.
That deadline was included in the bill by accident, Assemblyman Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg, announced in an open letter to city and county officials Dec. 17.
On Jan. 4, Wood, who co-authored the legislation, submitted cleanup language to the state to remove the erroneous deadline, but it still needs to be signed by Gov. Jerry Brown before the deadline is officially removed.
In the meantime, many local governments have taken steps toward drafting and approving bans, including Pismo Beach and Paso Robles, where both city councils approved complete bans on cultivation last week. Grover Beach also approved a ban last week, but specified that personal cultivation allowed under the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 would not be prohibited.
Morro Bay’s City Council voted Tuesday to adopt a similar ordinance banning commercial cultivation of medical marijuana and reaffirmed its zoning rules expressly banning cultivation of marijuana, except under certain specified conditions. Morro Bay doesn’t ban cultivation by card-carrying medical marijuana patients or licensed caregivers.
The Atascadero City Council is scheduled to discuss a ban at a special meeting Jan. 19.
On Tuesday in Arroyo Grande, several residents and representatives of local collectives turned out to speak against a ban.
“I agree that there are problems with medical marijuana, such as the ease of obtaining it,” resident Judith Bernstein said, “(but) I’m very concerned that in trying to correct some problems, we are doing a great disservice to people who are sick or suffering from serious conditions.”
Despite the requests, the majority of the council held fast to a complete ban in light of the state deadline and because it would be easier to enforce than one with exceptions.
“The other reason we are here tonight is not to debate the merits of medicinal marijuana,” Councilwoman Barbara Harmon said. “It’s to protect our citizens from those few people — and you know it’s always a few people that spoil it for a majority — that go in and actually think it’s a good idea in a residential area, even though the law says they are allowed to do so, to put 400 plants in as a grow. If those folks had maybe a little better common sense, a little better judgment ... we wouldn’t be having this conversation tonight.”
Want to know more about the history of medical marijuana legislation in San Luis Obispo County? Check out our timeline here:
Tribune reporter Nick Wilson contributed to this article.