Nearly two years after California voters chose to legalize recreational marijuana use and sales, Novato is considering giving residents more options on how to grow their personal cannabis garden.

On Monday evening, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to advance an ordinance to the City Council that would allow for both indoor and outdoor cultivation for personal grows, according to city officials. City officials believe Novato is one of the only — if not the first — local jurisdiction in the county to allow for both indoor and outdoor personal cultivation for recreational cannabis.

Commissioner Peter Tiernan said Tuesday that a majority of Novato voters chose to legalize recreational cannabis under Proposition 64. Personal grows are just the start, with regulations on commercial cannabis businesses expected to follow in the coming months.

“So we’re carrying forth with the outcome of the election more than anything,” Tiernan said. “We do also acknowledge a lot of the medicinal purposes are just unfolding and could become a bigger benefit as time goes on.”

The City Council is set to take up the ordinance at its Oct. 2 meeting.

California’s cannabis laws passed under Proposition 64 in 2016 allow adults over 21 to grow up to six plants for personal use indoors and gives local governments the leeway to determine whether they want to allow outdoor cannabis gardens.

Shortly after the proposition passed, Novato adopted a moratorium that banned outdoor cultivation and an urgency ordinance that regulated indoor grows. Indoor grows had to comply with odor control, security, power, structural and building regulations.

The ordinance advanced by the Planning Commission on Monday refines rules for indoor grows and opens the door for outdoor grows as well.

“Again, there are a number of restrictions on outdoor; most important it would only be allowed outdoors at a single-family residence or duplex residence, but not multi-family,” said Novato Community Development Director Bob Brown.

Outdoor grows are also not permitted within 100 feet of any school, church, park, library, or child care center. Tiernan said while public attendance on Monday was sparse, one speaker asked a poignant question of what happens if a child care center opens near an existing personal grow. After some research, Tiernan said Brown told the commission that the grow would then be illegal under the city’s ordinance.

Tiernan said he thinks indoor cultivation is actually more hazardous compared to outdoors because of security issues, electricity use and the potential for year-round growing.

“I just see too many moving parts that could go wrong whereas outdoor you put a seed in the ground,” Tiernan said. “And it’s a shorter growing season.”

Meanwhile, Novato is working to finalize a draft of its commercial cannabis laws before the end of the year. Before then, the City Council is set to decide whether to renew the moratorium on these commercial businesses in October, Brown said.

In the two years since recreational cannabis businesses have been legalized, several California cities and counties have embraced it as a business driver and a tax revenue generator while others have taken a more cautious approach. Novato falls into the latter category, Brown said, in that it has been studying how commercial cannabis has played out in states like Washington and Colorado, which legalized recreational cannabis years before California.

“It’s been sort of a methodical process in that sense,” Brown said.

Personal grow rules

The following is a summary of the city of Novato’s proposed regulations for personal cannabis grows:


  • Plant limit set at six per residence regardless of the number of occupants
  • Grow must be at least 10 feet from property lines
  • Cultivation area must be locked and must not be accessible by minors
  • Cultivation area cannot be visible at ground level from public right-of-way or nearby properties
  • Lights and other infrastructure must comply with city building, fire and zoning codes and standards
  • Generator use is prohibited, as are extension cords and light fixtures over 1,200 watts per fixture.
  • An odor ventilation and filtration system is required
  • Property owner must consent to grow


  • Six-plant limit per property with a maximum cultivation area of 50 square feet
  • Grow must be 10 feet from property line
  • Grow must be screened with a solid fence from all public rights-of-way, exterior property and private access easements
  • Grow not allowed within 100 feet of any school, church, park, library, or child care center

Source: Novato Planning Commission