Windsor opts to keep medical marijuana ban in place

With California coming up with a framework for regulating medical marijuana, the Town Council is grappling with how to safeguard Windsor’s family-friendly image.|

Windsor is going to keep its ban on medical marijuana cultivation and dispensaries, for now, but council members remain open to the possibility of allowing commercial pot gardens in designated zones in the future.

With California finally implementing a framework to regulate medical marijuana, as well as the looming prospect of voters legalizing pot, the Town Council is grappling with how to safeguard Windsor’s family-?friendly image, and whether to try to adopt its own regulations or even embrace the cannabis industry.

On Wednesday, the council reaffirmed a ban on medical cannabis cultivation and dispensaries that has been in effect since 2007, but said commercial cultivation areas should be considered as part of the ongoing update of the general plan, the document that guides future land use.

Council members appeared conflicted at times, trying to figure the way forward on marijuana policy.

Mayor Mark Millan said parents, teachers and school administrators have a huge concern about marijuana use among students.

“They saw a bump in usage in the student population when dispensaries came on line. They’ve seen what it can do to students. It’s a gateway drug,” he said.

Commercial cultivation, he said is not “in concert” with the town’s family emphasis, although he said he was not opposed to looking at allowing it in the future.

“Is the benefit worth the cost we see to families torn apart by drug abuse and what our police force might be called to do?” Millan said.

Councilwoman Deb Fudge, a cancer survivor, said there was a point where she needed medical marijuana to alleviate severe nausea from chemotherapy. She said Windsor needs to move forward with its own regulations.

“It’s about creating our own destiny and not just relying on the state. I’m positive it will be legalized sooner than later,” she said. “I don’t think we can run and hide from this anymore.”

Tawnie Logan, executive director of the Sonoma County Growers Alliance, a 400-member cannabis trade group, told the council there are 22 proposed initiatives in circulation to legalize marijuana in California and there could possibly be two or three on the November ballot.

Four states and the District of Columbia have legalized adult use in recent years.

Several cannabis advocates spoke to the council, saying that by not allowing dispensaries or growers to operate legitimately, it pushes the market underground.

There have been a number of pot-growing operations busted in Windsor, according to Police Chief Chris Spallino, but he said that officers use discretion on which to go after.

“We’re not kicking in doors for the cancer patient growing a plant,” he said.

The discussion in Windsor and other cities has been prompted by California’s recent passage of laws to regulate medical cannabis cultivation and distribution. Cities have the ability to establish their own rules ahead of state guidelines, which are still being refined and not expected to be in effect until Jan. 1, 2018, when a formal state licensing process is expected to begin.

Councilman Dominic Foppoli said he got a tour of a commercial marijuana- growing facility recently and was impressed by how it was professionally run, “with practices more stringent than most wineries I see.”

He envisioned marijuana-testing facilities being located in Windsor with highly skilled professionals and scientists in lab coats.

“I don’t think it will encourage teens to smoke pot,” he said.

He said the city should act now to establish regulations. During Prohibition, he said wineries and breweries that were the most successful were the ones that were ready to go on the first day alcohol became legal again.

“Why not attract business now?” Foppoli said.

Councilman Sam Sal-mon said he has a tough time reconciling how marijuana plants can be grown commercially without allowing plants for personal use.

“Do we want to get in on the ground floor of the marijuana industry?” he asked.

Councilman Bruce Okrepkie said he favors taxing, licensing and monitoring marijuana production, but it is difficult for Windsor to develop its own guidelines ahead of state regulations.

“Laws will change. We can’t predict what will be in the future,” he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or On Twitter@clarkmas

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