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Atascadero City Council allows residential marijuana cultivation

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Medical marijuana patients living in Atascadero will be allowed to grow their own marijuana plants on a restricted basis, the Atascadero City Council decided on March 22.

The council unanimously passed an amendment to a city zoning code introduced in January banning all forms of marijuana cultivation. The amendment reverses part of that ordinance by allowing qualified patients to cultivate marijuana if they adhere to certain rules designed to prevent neighbor disturbances and loophole abuses.

The ordinance restricts medical marijuana growers to six mature and 12 immature marijuana plants per patient and also sets a maximum plant number per dwelling unit, regardless of how many patients live there, of nine mature and 15 immature plants.

Marijuana cultivation will be prohibited on vacant parcels, must be planted either indoors or in a manner screened from public view, and cannot extend over property lines. The ordinance stipulates that the plants may not be sold, distributed, or donated to any other person.

The amendment will require a second reading by the council after which it could take effect May 12.

Initially, Atascadero joined every other municipality in SLO County by instituting a ban on medical marijuana cultivation in January, which was a collective response to a March 1 deadline set by state law for local jurisdictions to devise their own comprehensive marijuana laws or else be governed by new state regulations. State lawmakers have since removed the deadline, but city reactions ignited a local debate over medical marijuana policy.

Atascadero City Manager Rachelle Rickard said that the revised ordinance basically mirrors what the city had on its books in the past, with the exception that it now explicitly allows and specifies rules for personal cultivation for medical use. 

“Cultivation was silent on the previous ordinance [before 2016],” Rickard said. “It’s more liberal now than what we had before the January ordinance.”

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