LA OKs 1-year ban on cannabis sales, will monitor other cities

Los Altos has banned the sale of marijuana for at least another 10 months while officials observe the ramifications of cannabis businesses allowed in other communities.

The city council last week approved an urgency interim zoning ordinance, good through Nov. 27, that prohibits commercial sales of any kind in the city. The ban comes on the heels of the voter-approved Proposition 64 in 2016 that legalized recreational marijuana use. With the state’s ability to grant business licenses effective Jan. 1, Los Altos and other cities statewide are adopting their own regulations allowing, limiting or prohibiting sales.

Councilmembers directed city staff to monitor the ramifications of cannabis sales in cities where it’s legal and return to the council in six months or more with a report.

“We’ll work with police and planning to look at respective locations, and come back to you with a full picture of what allowing a retail establishment would look like and what kind of regulations we would recommend to make sure that is a safe kind of use,” City Attorney Chris Diaz told councilmembers at their Jan. 9 meeting.

Monitoring sales

Proposition 64 allows residents to possess up to 28.5 grams of cannabis for recreational or medical use, and to grow up to six plants either indoors or in a greenhouse outdoors. Use is prohibited in public areas, within 1,000 feet of schools and while driving a vehicle.

Diaz said the state will collect a 15 percent tax on marijuana sales, but cities wishing to collect their own sales taxes must get voter approval.

Los Altos has an existing ordinance prohibiting marijuana cultivation, processing, delivery and dispensaries. But the urgency ordinance is needed, Diaz said, because every type of commercial use is not addressed.

“If you don’t have any regulations on the books … you could see dispensaries potentially popping up, you could see microbusinesses which are smoking lounges pop up,” he said.

The city has the option to require permits for individual marijuana cultivation “to make sure it’s safe,” Diaz said, but the American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the requirement in court, citing a violation of privacy.

Councilmembers passed the urgency ordinance 5-0, with Councilwoman Mary Prochnow suggesting the city monitor cannabis sales in other cities.

“I would like us to look at the possibility of allowing retail on El Camino,” she said, noting that the time during the moratorium “would give you the opportunity to see what some of the surrounding cities (do)and what the ramifications are – including the tax collection.”

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