The Mountain View City Council on Tuesday evening unanimously agreed to instruct the staff to begin studies on how best to allow commercial marijuana sales in the city.

Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, made recreational use legal in California. The challenge for cities is to find a way to locally regulate its sales within their borders before Jan. 1, when the state can impose its own regulations locally, and start sucking up any possible tax revenues from sales.

And, there are other issues for Mountain View, including where it can be sold and under what conditions.

[related_articles location=”left” show_article_date=”false” article_type=”automatic-primary-section” curated_ids=””]Council member Chris Clark wondered, could a restaurant on Castro Street be allowed to offer marijuana brownies to patrons?

Vice Mayor Lenny Siegel, noting that marijuana is already widely used in the city, said he saw legalizing and regulating its use as an economic opportunity.

The city is already struggling in the retail districts for businesses other than new restaurants, he pointed out.

“It’s time to stop thinking of it as a crime,” Siegel said. “It’s a product people want and can use it safely. We should allow it in the downtown area, along San Antonio Road, on El Camino Real.”

He dismissed the idea of how far dispensaries should be located from high schools as pretense. “What? Would they compete with the high school dealers?” he said.

Siegel, Clark and others agreed that commercial cultivation of marijuana in Mountain View doesn’t make sense economically.

“Land is too expensive here, compared to Humboldt County,” Siegel pointed out.

Mountain View has already authorized residents to grow as many as six marijuana plants for personal use.

On the question of taxing for marijuana sales, Siegel said he had recently attended a League of California Cities presentation on the issue.

“We want to make money, but not so much that you drive the business back underground. Maybe 3 to 7 percent,” Siegel said.

A memo from city staff to the council suggested three possible actions could be taken on Tuesday:

Option 1: Direct staff to develop an amendment to the Zoning Code prohibiting commercial marijuana activity.

Option 2: Direct staff to develop an amendment to the Zoning Code to permit and regulate commercial marijuana activity.

Option 3: Take no action and allow the state to be the sole regulatory body of marijuana-related activities.

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The council members agreed that Option 2 was their choice.

Several, including council member John McAlister, wondered if a means of allowing sales could be pushed up, faster than what city staff has requested for a study time.

Clark and others pointed out that delivery sales of marijuana are already taking place in Mountain View.

Taxing sales would require a ballot measure for voter approval, and City Manager Dan Rich doubted all the study and community outreach process could be accomplished in time for the June 2018 ballot, meaning it probably can’t go before voters until November 2018.

City staff is likely to bring two emergency ordinances to the council by November, which would establish a moratorium on commercial marijuana sales for 45 days, intended to forestall whatever the state does in January.

Then staff study and community outreach could continue, giving staff and the council more time to craft the city’s eventual marijuana legalization ordinance.