Palo Alto commission backs ban on pot dispensaries | News | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto commission backs ban on pot dispensaries

Planning and Transportation Commission supports new law prohibiting commercial cannabis operations

Legal marijuana may soon be the law of the land, but Palo Alto residents who expect to see a pot shop opening up in their neighborhood will likely be in for a buzzkill.

The city is preparing to pass a law that would ban local marijuana dispensaries -- an effort that the Planning and Transportation Commission unanimously supported on Wednesday night. The city's law would effectively extend the ban on dispensaries that the council passed last year as an "emergency" measure and that is set to expire in November.

The new law is the city's latest response to Proposition 64, a measure that California voters passed last November and that received support from about two-thirds of local voters. While the state law legalizes and taxes marijuana, it also gives local agencies some power to curtail commercial operations.

Palo Alto is one of several cities that is looking to exercise this power (Campbell and Beverly Hills have also passed local restrictions). The new local ordinance would kick in before Jan. 1, 2018, when the state is scheduled to start issuing licenses for commercial marijuana operations. In presenting the proposed ordinance, Deputy City Attorney Tim Shimizu characterized it as a way to preserve some local control in California's evolving landscape of marijuana law.

Because the state can start issuing permits early next year, dispensaries would be allowed to operate in Palo Alto even if the city decides it doesn't want them. Furthermore, if the City Council opts to ban dispensaries at a later time, existing shops would likely be "grandfathered" in and allowed to operate.

Shimizu said the new ordinance would prohibit most commercial activities (with the exception of marijuana deliveries) "to give the city more time to study its options and wait for the final state regulations to be released."

The commission's vote this week follows a similar action by the council's Policy and Services Committee, which backed the new ordinance by a 3-0 vote in June.

Councilman Cory Wolbach, who chairs the committee, said at the June meeting that given the changes happening at state level, passing a law that maintains the status quo is a prudent action.

"Once the state law is cleared up, we can have a real discussion, understanding the context of state law," Wolbach said.

The planning commission took a similar stance this week. In voting 7-0, commission members agreed with the council's decision to maintain the city's ban on marijuana dispensaries while allowing delivery services. The council also agreed last year to ban outdoor cultivation, though that ban will expire in November. After that, the city will be operating under state standards for outdoor cultivation -- which means that growing up to six plants outdoors will become legal, provided the marijuana is within a locked space and out of public view (indoor cultivation is allowed under the state law).

The commission also considered on Wednesday a staff proposal to further limit cultivation by requiring growth to take place inside fully enclosed "accessory structures," such as a shed or greenhouse. Members rejected this option, with Commissioner Eric Rosenblum saying doing so would be "meaningless" (since pot will already be out of public view), Commissioner Doria Summa calling the idea "a little silly" and Chair Michael Alcheck arguing that it would "add a level of complexity that I don't think it's prudent."

Otherwise, the commission was fully on board with staff's proposal to keep marijuana dispensaries out of Palo Alto.

"In general, I support the conservative approach," Commissioner Ed Lauing said. "It's the Wild West. Let's figure out what's going on."

The commission also agreed with the council's direction in deciding to allow commercial operations to deliver marijuana to local users. Susan Monk was one of several commissioners who advocated for allowing delivery, though she also lobbied for more stringent verification requirements, to make sure that the recipient of the marijuana is of age.

The new law intends to buy time for Palo Alto to consider "alternative regulations," according to a report from the Department of Planning and Community Environment. The report also suggests that the new ordinance could also be a stepping stone to further regulations.

"Should the City wish to regulate personal uses of cannabis, including smoking and personal cultivation, staff recommends that regulations or laws be developed after the State issues its regulations," the report states. "In other words, the recommended ordinance is a first step in several possible steps toward regulating commercial and personal use of cannabis in Palo Alto."


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22 people like this
Posted by Thank you!
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 30, 2017 at 11:16 pm

Thank you for keeping "MC" dispenseries–and the associated crime and drugs available for sale to minors–out of our community.

48 people like this
Posted by mike
a resident of Southgate
on Aug 30, 2017 at 11:25 pm

Anyone who thinks that the people, especially the kids, of Palo Alto can't already get their hands on whatever they want didn't grow up and go to high school here.

80 people like this
Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 30, 2017 at 11:53 pm

What glaring hypocrisy apparently at hand. State and certainly local voters overwhelmingly come out in favor of legalizing marijuana, just so long it's not in my backyard. Laughable and predictable.

51 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 31, 2017 at 12:21 am

Online Name is a registered user.

"In other words, the recommended ordinance is a first step in several possible steps toward regulating commercial and personal use of cannabis in Palo Alto.”

Remind me again why we bother to vote. Did we elect the Planning and Transportation Commission to regulate legal adult behavior and reject the wishes of two thirds of the voters here?

Did they miss all the coverage of the well-dressed society ladies in San Francisco having high tea and garden parties to promote the launch of the new marijuana teas that got such a pr blitz recently? It made both the business and arts sections as examples of creative, successful startup businesses.

The San Francisco Chronicle has a dedicated marijuana columnist covering product launches, reviewing multi-course marijuana infused dinners and the openings of new classy dispensaries where people can socialize, play scrabble, listen to music and indulge. They also publish a daily email Green Report on all aspects of marijuana.

It's bad enough that Palo Alto is trumping state law that already allows the outdoor cultivation of 6 plants by regulating what we can grow in the privacy of our own back yards, but for them to have "also considered on Wednesday a staff proposal to further limit cultivation by requiring growth to take place inside fully enclosed “accessory structures” is utterly ridiculous.

We're talking about 6 plants, folks, not a commercial growing operation! What's a fully enclosed accessory structure anyway?

If they'd done their homework, they'd know that the delivery services already require proof of age and all the appropriate IDs and that there are many legitimate and creative businesses involved in marijuana.

Prohibition invites crime and cartels. But it's a windfall for PA Utility Dept. as people are forced to use energy to grow indoors.

27 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 31, 2017 at 7:38 am

[Post removed.]

23 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 31, 2017 at 8:30 am

I believe that we voted to legalize pot. We did not vote on how pot is distributed or sold. That is still a situation that is being worked out with the state. You are not going to have any legitimate pot store near any school so get over that idea. And Palo Alto is a "youth and school" city. Any ideological argument still has to be qualified with an actual, legally defined method for implementation. So get to the implementation argument and forget the ideological argument.

22 people like this
Posted by Teri
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 31, 2017 at 10:02 am

Great opportunity for kids and maybe some adults to sell it illegally out of their home. That's where my husband buys his...from your neighborhood. Dumb Palo Alto.

19 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 31, 2017 at 10:06 am

@resident, "We did not vote on how pot is distributed or sold."

Adults growing 6 plants for personal use in your private back yard is neither distribution nor sale. There are already specific state laws barring dispensaries anywhere near schools.

@Bob, I too miss the old Palo Alto and real 'artistic/disruptive/cutting edge/progressives" and small creative startups when we didn't have to leave town for live music. Now we're just a boring over-priced office park dominated by huge companies and bean-counter-backed startups whose "big idea" is putting people out of work.

Oh, wait. Maybe the City Council needs another feel-good law backing ALL startups, including those for vape pens and other high-tech delivery systems, edibles, topical creams, edibles and high teas.

22 people like this
Posted by ProtectingWho?
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Aug 31, 2017 at 10:08 am

Makes sense to me. Send folks to EPA, San Jose and elsewhere to buy their weed.
We voted to legalize recreational marijuana use and sales. it ridiculous that Palo Alto is so far behind in its thinking.
Why not address zoning and quantity of dispensaries and a licensing program rather than sticking our collective head in the sand.
This commission doesn't speak for me!
Get with it folks.

7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2017 at 10:29 am

The only part of this argument that affects me is don't smoke it the other side of my backyard fence!

I am much more concerned about where this stuff is smoked and what happens to the second hand smoke we all have to breath. We are well aware of the dangers of second hand tobacco smoke as well as the unpleasantness of the smell that lingers on clothes, etc. when we have been in contact with someone smoking, say the other side of my fence. Where is the guidance about where this stuff can be smoked? I hope that the same rules apply to pot smoke as they do to tobacco smoke, but some are telling me that it is safer and therefore the rules don't apply. This is absolutely wrong imo, as dangers from smoke inhalation as well as the possibility of fires is a big concern.

Yes, in this respect I am NIMBY as well as the other side of my fence.

17 people like this
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 31, 2017 at 10:57 am

Bought and paid for by those invested in alcohol, a much greater menace than cannabis. Because, let's be real. This is about money influence, not safety.

Of course they are passing up some hefty tax dollars, but they are still under the thumb of the much more damaging alcohol lobbies.

34 people like this
Posted by Roger
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 31, 2017 at 11:11 am

The level of hypocrisy here is breathtaking. Cannabis has been legalized in our state, per a vote by the people. But PA has decided that it's a better nanny, and will take care of regulating this in our stead. Meanwhile, you can still drive downtown, get drunk at any number of places, and drive home, placing yourself and all of the people around you on the road at mortal risk. Alcohol costs our society tens of billions of dollars in productivity loss, increased health care, accidents, and utterly unnecessary deaths.

The number of people who have overdosed on cannabis? ZERO.

Grow up, Palo Alto.

18 people like this
Posted by ChrisC
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 31, 2017 at 11:19 am

Thus is so typical of Palo Alto, looking a tax gift-horse in the eye. After all, PA can make all the money it needs installing parking meters, raising resident parking permit fees, charging business owners more for permits. They must not thought of how much they can make off of meters in front of the pot dispensaries. I can totally visualize an up-scale super expensive dispensary and club, with wi-fi, and everybody Uber's home

21 people like this
Posted by Not a Pot Smoker
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 31, 2017 at 11:35 am

Just recently, an article in PA Online was discussing how underfunded our pension obligations are. Here's a golden opportunity to generate a substantial amount of tax money and PA is throwing it away. As is pointed out, we voted overwhelmingly in favor of legalizing pot. Let's take advantage of that to strengthen Palo Alto's fisc.

8 people like this
Posted by Dennis Briskin
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 31, 2017 at 11:51 am

I weary of reading "alcohol" in discussions of cannabis or marijuana. Irrelevant non-sequitors, especially since liquor has no medical use.

16 people like this
Posted by Stretch
a resident of another community
on Aug 31, 2017 at 12:21 pm

Our city banned the sale of pot in dispensaries, and the un-enlightened council that ignored the results of the state-wide voter approval was forced to put it to a city vote. Guess what-we now have dispensaries. @Thank you!: dispensaries don't sell to children, or anyone under 21. The dispensaries don't create crime, and they bring in a LOT of tax money for cities, counties and the state. Regulation and certification make for safer distribution.

1 person likes this
Posted by Gopal
a resident of another community
on Aug 31, 2017 at 1:04 pm

There was some fierce opposition to a proposed outpost (of an already established dispensary) in the Sunset neighborhood in SF. The protests against the new dispensary were far more divisive and disruptive to the neighborhood than anything you would reasonably expect to see at any existing store. Rumor had it that an anti-LGBT hate group helped to organize the opposition. I wonder if a similar effort is underway in Palo Alto.

17 people like this
Posted by Jessica Clark
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 31, 2017 at 1:07 pm

Thank you to all those who spoke out against this. If you want to join forces to combat these regulations in Palo Alto please contact me. You can message me on FB. Marijuana cultivation and dispensing is the least of this towns problems yet they will take immediate action in regards to it. Disappointing.

11 people like this
Posted by PA resident
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 31, 2017 at 2:20 pm

This is so short-sighted. It's not going to stop anyone who wants to use it. I guess Mountain View will be getting my money.

11 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 31, 2017 at 2:29 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

There's a dispensary in Mountain View? Details please.

Re the opposition to the Sunset dispensary and the anti-LGBT crowd, sort of sounds like the PA sex ed brouhaha. In the meantime, San Jose has funded how many branch libraries and police officers while PA continues to run deficits and plead poverty.

Thanks, Jessica Clark. I'll message you on FB.

4 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 31, 2017 at 2:36 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Jessica Clark, there are too many people with your name on Facebook to find you so I've emailed the Town Square moderator asking to be connected to you. Several months back publisher Bill Johnson said they'd be happy to connect those of us who want to be connected with each other.

3 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 31, 2017 at 3:39 pm

I have to agree with above that comparisons of pot to liquor have no interests at this point. But the comment that there have been no overdoses on pot - zero - is incorrect. They are mixing numerous strains of pot and adding other elements which are not "pure". Reading the SFC on SF's issues clearly show that "creative" pot is being sold and now SF is trying to figure out how to run a "clean" operation with all of the creative elements floating around,how to quality check what is being sold. Once a store is set up it is now accountable for what it sells. Not as easy as it appears. All of the "lobbyist" out there will tell anyone anything to sell the product or to influence an outcome but that is what lobbyist do. Reality is another thing.

3 people like this
Posted by Member name 1
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2017 at 8:11 pm

Dispenceries bring a negative element and the need for increased policing. Not worth the tax revenue.

It's gonna be legal everywhere. Is it really so hard to drive a town or two over to get it?

4 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Aug 31, 2017 at 8:36 pm

Palo Alto has simultaneously been smoking in apartments and Condominiums. That includes smoking marijuana and cigarettes.

2 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 1, 2017 at 10:32 am

Online Name is a registered user.

@Mike, not all marijuana is smoked these days. In fact, that's probably the least popular way to consume it these days vs eating it, drinking it, using it as a topical cream for skin conditions, on sub-lingual strips to alleviate pain etc etc.

The new vape devices -- whether used for tobacco or marijuana -- don't even emit smoke; that's one of the reasons they're so popular expensive. I recently visited a TOBACCO vape store with a friend trying to quit smoking cigarettes and was amazed at the variety of products including non-nicotine products. Obviously the vape store didn't sell marijuana in any form and the devices couldn't be refilled or used with marijuana.

@Jessica Clark, expect a contact request from me via the Town Square Moderator.

1 person likes this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 1, 2017 at 10:40 am

Let's clarify the Sunset dispensary issue in SF. It has nothing to do with anti-LGBT. It has everything to do with the person who owns the shop - the previous mayor of Oakland and her husband. They have problems qualifying for an Oakland shop because they are Chinese - not black. So they moved their operation to a city that has a higher Chinese population. No one is interested in the Quan's using their neighborhood for their shop when they live in Oakland. So much for political fame. I guess no one was happy with the Quan's role in the management of Oakland.

4 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 1, 2017 at 4:11 pm

Wasting away your time high on pot or alcohol, LSD, glue fumes etc. etc for "recreational" purposes isn't something that should be encouraged. Just because its legal doesn't mean its good. Just because a majority of people agree that you shouldn't be thrown in prison for doing it doesn't mean the same majority wants pot shops proliferating like Starbucks coffee shops.

Like this comment
Posted by bob
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 1, 2017 at 10:32 pm

[Post removed.]

3 people like this
Posted by Dont Pan Pot
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 2, 2017 at 1:10 am

Marijuana is pretty interesting. Now that it has created such a controversy in the last decades research seems to show, and I am not an expect on this, but THC and other fractions in pot smoke seem to have chemicals that fit into receptors in the human brains, cannabinoids I think, like opiates, etc. Poppies, coca. mushrooms, cacti and marijuana and lots of other plants have evolved for a long time with humans for a reason. How can someone not find this fascinating. Google "reindeer urine hallucinogen" to find out that humans are not the only animals that like to alter our consciousness.

I find this really interesting, and one has to wonder what the history of these plant substances and others are, and how they all evolved with humans. Michael Pollen's "Botany of Desire" has a chapter on this that is interesting, but it is old now ... good God ... 16 years old now. I wish humans would quit thinking they know anything and spend more time learning and integrating and less time trying to find ways to screw other humans or control them. If we only knew the reality of drug use in our population it would probably change our whole outlook. Of course now we only see the poor and criminal, not good PR for altered states is it?.

Consider Donald Trump who professed to have never smoked or drank. A toke or two might actually help whatever is wrong with his brain.

3 people like this
Posted by Illuminato
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2017 at 11:57 am

Legal marijuana is already the law of the land. It's been legal for adults to possess and grow since the election in Nov.
It's also legal to sell it commercially. The catch is that you need a license for that, and the state has until 1/1/18 to issue the licenses. They could issue them today, or even last January, but they apparently have decided to wait until the last minute.

I'm skeptical about that. The baby-sitters in state government are probably working harder on coming up with ways to block the commercial distribution than on issuing licenses.

Personally, I like smoking dope once in a while, but I wouldn't want to make a habit out of it.

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