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Lathrop may ask voters if they want pot shops

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POSTED September 15, 2017 1:03 a.m.

When the City of Lathrop came up with its medical marijuana policy several years ago, the decision by the council was clear –  dispensaries and cultivation are not welcome within the city limits.
But now that California voters have approved a ballot initiative that will decriminalize the sale, use and cultivation of marijuana for recreational purposes, the city is being forced to change its tack while at the same time preventing a free-for-all for those who wish to take advantage of the new freedoms the law affords.
On Monday, Sept. 18, the Lathrop City Council will review several proposed policy changes that will relax the previous ban but still put strict guidelines in place that will limit how residents can cultivate marijuana and the manner in which it can be done.
The Lathrop City Council meets on the first and third Monday of every month at Lathrop City Hall, located at 390 Towne Centre Drive.
While the council may not be able to prohibit people from cultivating marijuana for personal use according to the new California law, they will be able to decide whether to allow businesses that specifically cater to the new marijuana industry within the city limits and how they wish to oversee and enforce the restrictions on those businesses.
According to the staff report prepared for the meeting, staff is recommending two options for the council to decide – the outright ban on all businesses engaged in commercial marijuana activity within the city limits, or the decision to allow voters to decide whether to allow the businesses and impose a cannabis business tax on entities that choose to open within Lathrop’s city limits.
Current California regulations prohibit the state from issuing businesses licenses for marijuana related businesses if those businesses are prohibited by local governments, although that may change depending on how the State of California decides to adopt new regulations for the emerging market moving forward.
Modesto, which by city ordinance prohibits all marijuana related businesses, just recently voted to direct its City Clerk to prepare an appeal to voters to allow the city impose a tax of up to 10 percent of gross receipts on all marijuana-specific businesses – money that could then presumably be used by the city to enforce regulation on those businesses and any issues that may arise as a result of their presence.
If the council were to choose to appeal to voters to determine what they would wish to see and possibly impose the marijuana tax on those businesses, a simple majority vote of the council is all that would be needed to authorize a ballot measure. If approved, the council would then have to decide whether to place the item on the ballot for the primary for the 2018 election or wait until November for the General Election.
If the council chooses not to seek the public ballot at this time, they could revisit the decision later if and when commercial cannabis regulations are approved by the State of California and forced onto the city.
Because California law allows the city to prohibit uses beyond what is allowed by the state, the cultivation of six personal plants – which is clearly spelled out in the ballot initiative – can be the limit that the City of Lathrop chooses to impose and enforce within the city limits. Those seeking to grow marijuana indoors would then, if council approves the request of staff, be required to get a permit from both the City of Lathrop’s Building Department and the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District before they would be considered compliant with the city’s municipal code.
And even Lathrop’s outright ban on cultivation has done little to thwart residents from growing their own outdoor plants according to Lathrop Police Chief James Hood.
While the tighter regulations against cultivation, which were legal under California law, were meant to eliminate some of the quality of life issues that residents routinely complained about – the smells associated with growing marijuana chief among them – the complaints in the last two years have still been constant according to Hood.
The new regulations, which would require cultivation done outside of a primary residence to still be contained within a locked structure, would eliminate some of those issues while also addressing the potential invitation to theft and additional crime that may come as a result of that.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email jcampbell@mantecabulletin.com or call 209.249.3544.

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