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Medical marijuana grow, delivery ordinance moves ahead in Arroyo Grande

A history of medical marijuana in San Luis Obispo County

Two decades after the Compassionate Use Act was approved by California voters, local governments are still struggling to balance regulation of medical marijuana. Here is an abbreviated history of the issue in SLO County.
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Two decades after the Compassionate Use Act was approved by California voters, local governments are still struggling to balance regulation of medical marijuana. Here is an abbreviated history of the issue in SLO County.

oeMedical marijuana deliveries and some limited cultivation may soon be allowed in Arroyo Grande.

The city Planning Commission narrowly approved an amendment to its existing medical marijuana regulations Tuesday night — voting 3-2, with commissioners Terry Fowler-Payne and John Mack dissenting — to allow limited cultivation and to set up a delivery permit system within the city.

The amendments will now go to the City Council for approval. At a meeting in March, council members said they would favor more lenient cultivation and delivery regulations, as long as proper safety precautions were taken.

In recent years, the city has taken a hard line on medical marijuana: It banned brick-and-mortar dispensaries in 2008 and was among the first cities in the county to ban mobile dispensaries in 2012.

In February, the City Council came under fire from several residents for its decision to ban all cultivation of medical marijuana within city limits, amid widespread confusion over an erroneous state deadline that pushed many California cities to draft such bans or lose the ability to regulate medical marijuana at a local level.

Many criticized the bans, saying they conflicted with the state’s Compassionate Use Act of 1996, which legalized some limited at-home cultivation. In Arroyo Grande, several residents said the prohibitive ordinance made it impossible to gain access to medical marijuana within the city.

The state deadline has since been removed, and several cities, Arroyo Grande among them, have spent the past few months reconsidering the bans.

The new ordinance will set up a permitting system for mobile dispensaries operating in the city. Under the new regulations, up to three mobile dispensaries could be allowed to operate at a time. They would be subject to background checks by the Arroyo Grande Police Department and a “rigorous criteria” process relating to the business’s experience, safety procedures, record-keeping, product quality and insurance procedures.

The ordinance could restrict deliveries to certain times (city staff proposed 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.) and prohibit them within a certain distance of a school (city staff proposed 1,000 feet, but the commission recommended 500 feet).

Some limited at-home cultivation of medical marijuana would also be allowed under the new ordinance. Residents would be prohibited from growing on a space larger than 50 square feet or allowing the plants to grow taller than 10 feet. The plants could not be visible from the exterior of the property and could only be grown in a detached single-family home, but not in the kitchen, bathroom or bedroom.

The amended ordinance will likely go before the council sometime this month or in July.

Kaytlyn Leslie: 805-781-7928, @kaytyleslie

California was the first state to allow medical marijuana. Now, two decades later, voters are expected to be asked whether to legalize recreational use of the drug. The legalization measure most likely to qualify for the statewide November ballot

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