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Atascadero works with its community on cannabis regulations

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Almost every seat was filled at the special joint meeting between Atascadero's City Council and Planning Commission on Aug. 29 discussing the city's next steps in creating cannabis zoning regulations.

Mayor Tom O'Malley started off the conversation by saying that both he and city staff were going into this meeting with an open mind, not necessarily thinking about what other jurisdictions are doing but what the Atascadero community wants.

Deputy City Manager Terrie Banish said it was important to open up with that statement to let the community know its rights.

"We want to do what's best for our constituents and we want them to know there are no preconceived ideas. They have the freedom to choose what to do," Banish said.

The purpose of the meeting was to begin drafting an ordinance for personal and commercial cultivation of marijuana in light of the passage of Proposition 64, which voters passed in 2016, legalizing the adult use of marijuana.

Community Development Director Phil Dunsmore told New Times that the council wants to create regulations for the cultivation of marijuana before the end of the year. The plan is to allow personal cultivators to grow a maximum of six plants whether it's indoors or out, but the city is concerned about plants grown inside a room that wasn't necessarily meant for cultivation.

"Our biggest concern is that the grower does this in compliance with building and zoning codes," Dunsmore said. "It could cause an overload of the electrical system or pose a hazard of mold in a room that wasn't meant for that purpose."

For the time being, the city decided to prohibit commercial cultivation.

"The commercial industry is still evolving, and we don't have the tax structure for that just yet," Dunsmore said.

While the city is putting the commercial aspect on hold, it will consider allowing a testing laboratory and delivery services within the city. But dispensaries will not be allowed within city limits.

Most importantly, Dunsmore said, the city will work to refine its regulations on smoking or consuming cannabis in public.

"This is a very controversial topic no matter what way that you look at it, and I think it's difficult for any local jurisdiction to work on because there are a lot of unknowns and that's what we're running into," he said.

City staff will make amendments to the zoning code and present a draft to the Planning Commission during a public meeting on Sept. 19. The ordinance will be presented to the City Council on Oct. 10. Δ


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