For the second time in as many months, the Santa Rosa City Council postponed a decision on whether to ban outdoor cannabis cultivation in the city.
The council was poised Tuesday to debate the proposed ban, which if approved by five council members would have gone into effect immediately.
But City Manager Sean McGlynn announced shortly before the council was to take up the issue that he was “once again … going to have to beg the council and the public’s indulgence” by postponing the decision on the ban until May 23.
Councilman Jack Tibbetts appeared surprised by the move. More than a dozen residents had shown up Tuesday to take in the council discussion.
“I am disappointed that this got pulled from the agenda for a second time,” Tibbetts said in an interview afterward. “It’s not fair to the people who have taken time out on a Tuesday to listen to us take up issues that are important to them.”
The delay was needed because the “urgency ordinance” required five of seven council members to pass, and Ernesto Olivares, the chairman of the council’s cannabis subcommittee, was absent, said David Guhin, Santa Rosa’s director of planning and economic development.
Olivares is seen as a likely supporter of the ban.
At the outset, another council member — Guhin wasn’t sure who — had made it known they might not be able to attend the entire meeting and be present for a vote late Tuesday.
Asked if city staff were simply pulling the item to ensure it had the votes to pass it at a later date, Guhin said it is always preferable for consequential decisions to be made by the full council. The ban would have made it illegal to grow any amount of cannabis, medical or recreational, outdoors within city limits. Indoor growing for personal use would still be allowed, as would growing in “accessory structures,” such as sheds and greenhouses, which new state law requires be “fully enclosed and secure.”
The ban is viewed by city staff as necessary to address ongoing odor and safety concerns in neighborhoods, as well as a potential increase in cultivation and associated impacts in the wake of the passage of Proposition 64. The state measure, approved in Sonoma County with 59 percent of the vote, legalized recreational use for adults, including possession of up to six plants. Cannabis advocates argue a ban would harm low-income medical marijuana patients by either forcing them to purchase their medicine from dispensaries or to invest in indoor growing equipment, which they say comes with its own safety issues.
The ban was characterized as a way to ensure backyard gardeners didn’t get too invested in crops that might become illegal later this year when the city is expected to take up a comprehensive set of cannabis regulations. That step is set to take place in late summer.
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