Los Altos City Council passes pot ordinance -- stench remains

The Los Altos City Council voted 4-1 last week to pass an ordinance that bans cannabis retail shops within city limits. The new law, however, does allow for deliveries from outside Los Altos’ borders.

The council’s action comes on the heels of Mountain View’s new cannabis law, approved Oct. 2, which allows retail sales. Mountain View is currently the only city between San Francisco and San Jose that has approved storefront sales.

The Los Altos decree, as written by staff, states: “The purpose of this ordinance is to prohibit the physical establishment and operation of all medical and adult-use commercial cannabis businesses within Los Altos ... with the exception that cannabis retailers, microbusinesses, licensed nonprofits or other entities legally established and located outside of the city of Los Altos may provide delivery services to customers in Los Altos.”

Mary Prochnow was the lone council member to vote against the ordinance at the Oct. 9 meeting. It is slated to take effect Nov. 8, 30 days after its adoption.

Although state voters legalized cannabis sales under Proposition 64 in 2016, resident feedback thus far has pushed against cannabis retail sales within city limits. An Open City Hall online survey the city conducted revealed that more than 60 percent of the 361 respondents opposed retail sales. The survey also showed approximately 46 percent against delivery services, with 45 percent in favor.

Legislative reek

Proposition 64 permits residents to grow up to six plants indoors. But outdoor use, particularly the odor from smoke, is proving to be a bone of contention.

Prior to last week’s council discussion, resident Ken Elchert asked the council to consider provisions that would prohibit cannabis odors as a “public nuisance.” A neighbor’s outdoor cannabis use prompted Elchert’s request. He cited the current law’s lack of specific regulation language about greenhouse growth odors and proper ventilation. Council members agreed to take up the issue as a separate item. City Attorney Chris Diaz noted the city’s Planning Commission would also need to discuss the odor issue.

Elchert said the most helpful piece of legislation he found was a cannabis-related ordinance in Rancho Cordova. The ordinance defines outdoor cultivation regulations regarding greenhouses or accessory dwelling units as allowable as long as proper ventilation is provided “to prevent it from becoming a public nuisance.”

According to Elchert, a neighbor grows marijuana outdoors and the odor wafts into his backyard and sits in the air for long periods of time. At first, Elchert scoured his yard for months, thinking there may be a family of skunks burrowing there.

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