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Lathrop may extend moratorium on retail pot sales 22.5 months

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POSTED January 3, 2018 12:59 a.m.

Last month the Lathrop City Council voted unanimously to approve a 45-day moratorium intended to prevent any pot entrepreneurs from sneaking in before the council had the opportunity to formally consider an outright permanent ban on commercial cannabis.
And even though the council is expected to consider that permanent ban on all commercial cannabis activity when they meet on Jan. 8, Lathrop’s city staff is also asking for an extension of that moratorium just in case a consensus isn’t reached.
A 22.5-month extension to be exact.
In the council’s first – and only – meeting next week, they will vote on two marijuana related measures that will essentially prevent many of the commercial provisions of Proposition 64, approved by voters in November of 2016, from taking hold.
While the Adult Use of Marijuana Act makes the commercial sale of recreational marijuana legal in California, it does so with the provision that counties and cities have the ability to decide whether or not to allow certain business-related elements to take place within their boundaries.
The decisions will mark a clear position for a city that just a few months ago was tasked with determining whether the tax benefits of marijuana sales were enough to offset some of the quality-of-life issues that opponents say marijuana brings to a community. In addition to allowing municipalities and regional governments to determine the applicability of the new law to their own communities, it also gives cities the option to impose additional taxes intended to offset the costs associated with allowing commercial cannabis to operate within a given jurisdiction.
Part of the reason why the council was forced to adopt the urgency ordinance initially was that the Lathrop Planning Commission failed to reach a consensus on commercial cannabis one way or the other back in November, and by the time they actually voted – 3-2 – to recommend a ban on cannabis operations within the city limits, the council didn’t have enough time, legally, to place the item on their upcoming agenda.
According to the law, commercial cannabis deals with not only the sale of cannabis, but also the cultivation, manufacture, transportation, storage and delivery of the product that is still considered by the Federal government to be a dangerous drug. As a result of that, many banks will not work with marijuana businesses out of fear of losing Federal deposit insurance, and therefore many dispensaries – even in states that approved recreational marijuana long ago –  have become strictly cash businesses. Having that amount of cash on hand in any one place has prompted concern from some in local law enforcement who believe that it’s attractive nuisance and invites possibilities that wouldn’t otherwise be present.
Over the last several years, the Lathrop council has taken a number of steps to tighten the regulations around marijuana – even cannabis for medicinal purposes under the more than 20-year-old compassionate use law that allows those with doctor’s notes to grow their own supply at home.
In October of 2015 the council voted to ban all marijuana cultivation citing a number of concerns raised by residents, but relaxed that prohibition just over a year later in order to comply with the new California statute that will allow residents to grow up to six mature plants for personal use.
If the extension to the moratorium is approved by the council, a potential marijuana business in Lathrop wouldn’t be legal until November of 2019 at the earliest – and that’s only if the council chooses not to enact the permanent ban that they’ll consider on the same night.
California’s recreational marijuana dispensaries opened for business on Monday in some parts of the state to a sea of uncertainty as to how the regulations restricting the new business ventures would work. Despite there being 14 months to iron out the regulations between the election and the implementation of the law, most cities didn’t see the proposed guidelines until last November.

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

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