Sacramento City Council Approves Hotly Debated Marijuana Cultivation Ordinance

Article by Peter Hecht and Nashelly Chavez, The Sacramento Bee

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Sacramento is closer to becoming a regional hub for commercial marijuana production, but significant hurdles remain before the city flowers with industrial pot gardens.

City Council members voted 5-3 Tuesday to allow licensed cultivation within city limits. But it will be months before permits are issued and the city still must establish fees for grower licenses.

The city also needs to flesh out its proposed “neighborhood responsibility plan,” in which cultivators would pay fees to cover services that benefit surrounding neighborhoods. Two council members, Allen Warren and Eric Guerra, lobbied for that program because they are concerned how cultivation will affect their districts, each with concentrations of warehouses suitable for growing.

“We had a lot of cultivators say they do want to be good neighbors and contribute to the overall wealth of the community, and we want to take advantage of that,” said Councilman Jay Schenirer, who crafted the cultivation ordinance, arguing it was a necessary step to ensure the city properly regulated the marijuana industry while protecting communities.

Such fee amounts will be based on an upcoming study examining the effects of pot operations on policing demands, property values and quality of life, among other factors.

“You may have folks who are not interested in being a neighbor to a cultivation site,” Schenirer said. “So how does that (cultivation) affect the neighborhood? You may have property values or rents that take a dramatic turn. That’s what we want to look at.”

Until a fee is set, the City Council voted to allow cultivators to voluntarily pay a percentage of gross revenue to offset neighborhood impacts. But that proposal is stirring debate over whether the city is attempting to impose a special tax, which could only occur with a public vote and passage by a two-thirds majority.

Council members Warren, Angelique Ashby and Jeff Harris voted against the ordinance, with Harris calling the plan “half baked.” They called for more criteria on where the cultivation businesses would be allowed, as well as a better understanding of the oversight costs related to allowing such businesses.

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