The city of Menlo Park erected a roadblock against recreational marijuana last week, with the City Council unanimously approving a 45-day moratorium prohibiting all commercial cannabis land uses and outdoor or commercial cultivation while staff develops a permanent ordinance.
The temporary measure was implemented because the state is expected to approve its own regulations around cultivation by Jan. 1.[related_articles location=”left” show_article_date=”false” article_type=”automatic-primary-section” curated_ids=””]”If we don’t have the moratorium, somebody could have a pop-up retail spot, as long as it’s not within illegal areas,” said City Attorney Bill McClure.
Since Nov. 9, 2016, it has been legal for state residents 21 or older to smoke or ingest marijuana products, as well as possess, process, purchase, transport, obtain or give away up to 1 ounce of marijuana or 8 grams of concentrated marijuana to other state residents 21 or older. In 2016, 67 percent of Menlo Park voters approved recreational marijuana, 4 percent higher than the entire county and 10 percent higher than voters statewide.
What is not yet allowed is the sale of non-medical cannabis in retail dispensaries, because the state won’t begin issuing licenses until the start of next year. Fifteen Bay Area cities are set to allow dispensaries, but few are proposed for San Mateo County, according to a staff report, which noted that the city stood to gain significant tax revenue if it permits dispensaries. As an example, San Jose levies 19.25 percent in sales and business taxes and a $146,000 licensing fee on 16 medical marijuana dispensaries, which generates $11 million in annual revenue.
“You should expect that such a business would be very successful, given that neighboring cities … have agreed to ban them,” resident Andrew Boone said at the meeting. “You can get ahead of the game.”
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Staff said only one inquiry has been made for a cannabis-related business in the city. The request was for a delivery-based service, which staff noted the city could not ban once the state allows it for recreational marijuana.
The staff report suggested that dispensaries could be allowed along Haven Avenue between Marsh Road and the Redwood City border. That’s because all dispensaries must be located between 600 and 1,000 feet from schools. The council also asked staff to come back with a map adding child-care facilities and churches to the prohibition, after which Mayor Kirsten Keith noted that dispensary approvals might be moot.
The council ultimately voted on a plan that could extend the local moratorium for up to two years. It asked staff to come back in November for a second reading of the ordinance, which McClure said will give the city 22½ additional months to create permanent rules.