City outlaws marijuana shops | News | Palo Alto Online |


City outlaws marijuana shops

While voters say yes to legalized marijuana, City Council just says no to dispensaries

Legalized marijuana may be a popular proposition among Palo Alto voters, but the City Council indicated on Monday night that when it comes to pot, it feels far more comfortable passing a ban than a blunt.

By a unanimous vote, the council agreed to continue Palo Alto's prohibition on marijuana dispensaries, as well as all commercial activities involving marijuana except deliveries. In doing so, council members effectively extended a ban that they passed a year ago and that was set to expire this month.

The most significant difference between last year's ban and the one that the council approved Monday revolves around outdoor cultivation of marijuana. The prior ordinance banned the practice. The new one removes this ban and defaults to state regulations, which already mandate the outdoor plants be locked, out of view and inaccessible to the public.

Also, unlike the prior ban, the new one doesn't have a sunset clause.

Councilman Adrian Fine urged his colleagues to reconsider their opposition to pot shops, noting that two-thirds of the city's voters supported Proposition 64 last November. The measure legalized recreational marijuana and empowered the state to create a regulatory framework for commercial operations. The state Bureau of Cannabis Control, which is now finalizing its regulations for marijuana dispensaries, is scheduled to start issuing licenses in January.

Much like they had in prior discussions, council members agreed Monday that banning local marijuana dispensaries is a way to maintain local control. Members argued that the time isn't right to allow dispensaries.

The only council members who supported a more lenient approach were Fine and Councilman Cory Wolbach. Fine said the city is turning its back on commercial opportunities that other cities will seize.

"Our city is being too tepid and overly conservative on this," Fine said.

He acknowledged that many people don't want to see pot shops in their neighborhoods, but called it an "eminently solvable problem" that can be addressed with zoning restrictions and other rules.

Fine wasn't alone in taking this position. Local resident Robert Smith told the council that he was shocked that the council is expressing "consternation, denial and trepidation" about doing something that he said follows through on the will of the city's voters.

"I don't think it was a philosophical vote," Smith said. "It was an actionable thing, and you need to take a more serious and proactive approach."

But Mayor Greg Scharff, a leading opponent of local dispensaries, pointed to a different vote to support his position: a 2012 measure in which Palo Alto rejected a citizen petition to legalize up to three medical marijuana dispensaries.

Known as Measure C, that proposal was spearheaded by former Ronald Reagan adviser Thomas Gale Moore and Cassandra Chrones Moore. The measure ultimately fizzled, with virtually no organized campaign from proponents and unanimous opposition from the City Council.

Prior to the 2012 election, Scharff wrote the opposing argument in which he called medical marijuana dispensaries "hotspots for crime" and argued that allowing these facilities will "increase marijuana use by our kids and it will hurt them physically and academically." On Monday, he suggested that the Measure C vote (in which 63 percent of the voters opposed the Moore initiative) indicated that most people oppose having local marijuana dispensaries.

He also argued that there's nothing inconsistent about voting to support Prop. 64 and then opposing having marijuana legally bought and sold in the city.

"I think it should be legal in California, but I don't want to see it in Palo Alto," Scharff said.

Both Scharff and Vice Mayor Liz Kniss pointed to Mountain View, which has taken a far more liberal approach on dispensaries (the council there directed staff earlier this year to develop local regulations for marijuana dispensaries in commercial areas).

"If Mountain View wants to go ahead with this, let's see what it looks like in Mountain View," Scharff said.

Kniss, who co-signed the opposition argument in 2012, suggested that the city wait until the community expresses more clearly its desire to see dispensaries. Only three people addressed the council on the topic Monday, with two supporting local dispensaries and one opposing them.

"I don't think the timing is right," Kniss said. "We have a great opportunity to watch the city next door and see what happens with them."


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43 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 31, 2017 at 7:23 am

Good call by city council.

10 people like this
Posted by A mall for addicts
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 31, 2017 at 8:45 am

By all means,Palo Alto residents should shuffle over to Mountain View for their recreational drugs. Provision should be made on San Antonio Road (maybe at El Camino) for a mall of marijuana dispensories, liquor stores, prescription drugs stores and freelancers in the parking lot.Over 21 only, of course. Younger addicts will need to access the secondary market.

37 people like this
Posted by Excellent
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 31, 2017 at 9:09 am

Excellent decision!

31 people like this
Posted by Wise
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 31, 2017 at 9:47 am

Wise decision!

27 people like this
Posted by Wisdom
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 31, 2017 at 10:05 am

The decision distinguishes the difference between people who have had lived through difference experiences and those who have not.

Wisdom comes from life experiences.

Wolbach and Fine have no idea about what is in store for them as they grow pass their 30s. They don't want to hear from those who have lived through it either. You all should be worried they are setting policy.

24 people like this
Posted by Down on Drugs
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 31, 2017 at 10:49 am

I find it hard to believe I'm applauding a decision by our City Council. Making marijuana legal was a moral obligation since the US has been creating crime cultures in poorer countries to provide for our chemically dependent society. Pot, like ALL drugs, should only be used by those who truly need it for some clear health benefit. They don't call it DOPE for nothing and I applaud Palo Alto for making folks drive out of town.

7 people like this
Posted by PA now a smoking destination
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 31, 2017 at 10:56 am

Sell it or smell it, haha. No really, this is one huge BFD. If people can't stand the thought of retail, what will they do when people walk down University casually smoking a joint? Of take a pipe hit in front of their house? The horrors! haha.
2/3rds of the citizens wanted it. Here's the same council logic applied to parking: Banning parking is a good way to maintain local parking control. Whatever, cue the bong parade.

23 people like this
Posted by PA now a smoking destination
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 31, 2017 at 11:48 am

So just to be clear, you can still grow it, process it into concentrates, make your own edibles with it, smoke it, have it delivered, serve it at cocktail parties, and generally use it as freely and liberally as your heart desires. There's just zero tax money going into the city coffers. OK then, no worries. It all begins Jan 1 :)

29 people like this
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 31, 2017 at 12:12 pm

Neanderthals in government. By all means continue to collect taxes on alcohol which causes much more damage, accidents and loss of life.

We can't have a simple plant with no proven dangers menacing our neighborhoods.

Admit it. City Council is bought and owned by special interest groups.

Time for new generations to step into city roles.

13 people like this
Posted by Happy
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 31, 2017 at 1:21 pm

Good. I grow it in my Palo Alto backyard and make around $4000.00 profit per month. Thanks for not cutting into my "illegal" business.

3 people like this
Posted by Tess Doctor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 31, 2017 at 1:37 pm

Time for New City Council Members who represent the Majority.

Anyone who thinks having a Medicinal Dispensary in Palo Alto in the near future, needs to get out and VOTE!

Anyone in Palo Alto who wants to buy it in PA now, in the back room of course, or ask a teenager to buy you some, go to the vape shop on El Camino Real. If you don’t believe me, go sit in the parking lot behind the building any afternoon 3pm onward. Sales of Marijuana, (not medicinal quality by the way) has been happening in a variety of magazine, smoke and or tobacco stores for decades! The police have been called but no action has been taken. The people leasing the store are also illegally living in the building. The police have been called but no action has been taken.

Wake up Palo Alto you just denied Palo Alto control of shutting down illegal sales by opening a Legal Medicinal Store (more safe and clean marijuana). And collect taxes for other improvements in Palo Alto.

10 people like this
Posted by AlexDeLarge
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 31, 2017 at 1:52 pm

I'm old and old fashioned, I go to the dispensary. However, most people I know use the delivery services.

24 people like this
Posted by Reefer madness
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 31, 2017 at 1:55 pm

Great idea! While we're at it, let's also ban sales of other things I find objectionable: alcohol, tobacco, junk food, fashion magazines, fidget spinners, ...

23 people like this
Posted by Chuck
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 31, 2017 at 2:17 pm

Way to stay in the stone age Palo Alto... Yet three new bars are opening up in the city.. No worries, I will continue to get my meds delivered to my house in Palo Alto. Happy Halloween

18 people like this
Posted by PhD in Pharmacometrics
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 31, 2017 at 2:32 pm

Applaud for the wise decision from city council!

[cited from "Web Link"]

With all the pro-medical marijuana publicity and the clamoring for decriminalization of this drug, it can be hard to remember that marijuana is indeed damaging and addictive and causes harmful effects.

Dangers in the immediate effects of marijuana include distortions of time and space perceptions and impaired coordination, all of which may be contributing to the increased risk of traffic accidents recently discovered.

Particularly important for students to know about is the creation of difficulty thinking or problem solving and impairment of memory and learning. These difficulties can last for as long as four weeks after drug use.

Heavy abusers of marijuana were found to suffer damage to social life, work or career status and cognitive ability. Schoolwork and the achievement of goals were also found to suffer.

[Cited from Web Link]

Q. How is marijuana related to mental illness?
A. Marijuana increases the risk of psychosis, in which people lose touch with reality and may experience delusions, hallucinations and paranoia, Volkow says. Marijuana is also associated with chronic psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, in people who are genetically susceptible. Heavy marijuana use can lead these people to experience a psychotic episode two to six years earlier than otherwise.
Colorado police have reported two deaths this year related to psychosis-like episodes in pot users. In March, a 19-year-old African exchange student jumped off a hotel balcony after eating a marijuana cookie. The next month, a Denver man who had purchased marijuana, including an edible form called "Karma Kandy," began hallucinating and fatally shot his wife.

Q. How is marijuana related to car accidents?
A. Marijuana doubles the risk of a car accident when people try to drive soon after using it. Marijuana causes more car accidents than any other illicit drug, a 2013 study shows. In comparison, being legally drunk — with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% — increases the risk of an accident by five times.
In a study released earlier this year, Columbia University researchers found that marijuana contributed to 12% of traffic deaths in 2010, triple the rate from a decade earlier.

Q. Does marijuana cause cancer?
A. Although some studies have linked heavy marijuana smoking to lung cancer, the link isn't totally clear. But marijuana is associated with a variety of lung problems, including inflammation of the airways, symptoms of chronic bronchitis and an increased risk of pneumonia and respiratory infections, according to the New England Journal review.

38 people like this
Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 31, 2017 at 2:47 pm

How blatantly hypocritical. Palo Alto voters overwhelmingly approve the recreational use of Marijuana, but only if the sales occur in someone else's backyard. Like we the voters can't see through the hypocrisy and weakness of our elected officials on this topic. Unreal how truly out of touch people can be.

14 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 31, 2017 at 2:54 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

We already know that PA overwhelmingly approved the recreational use of marijuana by 66% yet the CC wants to conduct yet another study on what we really want. Couldn't they simply refer to the vote and save us some money for a change?

What a waste of money and an abridgement of our rights.

I was shocked to hear a few council members struggling to find ways to tax PA residents more than the state allows and to find ways to go beyond the state laws. Maybe we should just cancel all elections since our votes don't matter.

11 people like this
Posted by ChrisC
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 31, 2017 at 2:57 pm

Thank you Adrian and Cory for taking a common sense approach. Mountain View will rake it in, as they are doing from all their tech businesses--businesses actually making money. Not to worry, Palo Alto, just raise parking fines and get those meters in. It's your only idea for making money.

4 people like this
Posted by Future issues not funded
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 31, 2017 at 3:39 pm

There may likely be completely unforeseen consequences, good or bad, that may require the city to take some sort of action. Action that would require funding...maybe even by law, nobody can tell the future, but it would be naive to think there will be no issues.

Banning shops only alleviates the zoning headache the council would have deciding where/when/how many, and so on. It DOES NOT mean Palo Alto will somehow dodge being affected by any other issues. Indeed, Palo Alto will have to deal with the same exact issues the other cities in the state will be dealing with during this big change.
What will put PA at a disadvantage will be that they lack any of the additional funds made available by the tax revenue. They'll need to take it from somewhere else, or raise taxes.

The council may think they are hiding Palo Alto from the storm, but we're gonna get hit just like everyone else. Unfortunately Palo Alto will go through it without any insurance policy. I guess the citizens will pay the additional city taxes. Who needs all these fire fighters anyways.

8 people like this
Posted by A mom against marijuana
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 31, 2017 at 4:45 pm

Please no marijuana for the children!

15 people like this
Posted by A Dad against wine
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 31, 2017 at 5:37 pm

No wine for our kids either! Or opiate pills! None of these are for kids, of course, and no such thing has been suggested with recreational cannabis use. We're discussing adult things Mom. Please do not go into such an irrational panic. It's not healthy for you and fosters undue worry on your side. The new recreational use law states it's not for kids so you can rest easy. There are LOTS of legal things not for kids. We cannot ban everything adults use that that is bad for kids, but if we start, lets start with what kills them...actually kills them. (Psst, that'd be booze, not pot)

2 people like this
Posted by @PAFreePress
a resident of another community
on Oct 31, 2017 at 5:55 pm

We have written about medical marijuana dispensaries extensively. The person calling and directling all the legal shots is Palo Alto is city attorney Molly Stump. It was rather embarrassing for her in not being able to answer legal questions presented by city council when asked about the growing season of marijuana plants in open chambers. That was the last time Stump pushed for an emergency ordinance prohibiting outdoor cultivation but forgot about greenhouse cultivation. Fine and Cory nevertheless opposed their collegues no on marijuana dispensaries chose to go with the status quo anyway and voted unanimously. They through their integrity out the window as far as we are concerned.

1 person likes this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 31, 2017 at 6:45 pm

I do not want my kids to do drugs. I have done my best to warn them about the dangers of addiction to drugs and alcohol. As far as I am concerned these things dull the mind and lead to serious medical problems down the road as well as a lifetime of addiction problems that lead to relationship problems, employment problems, and worse.

I do however believe that alcohol is something that I can teach them how to enjoy without addiction if done in moderation. I will give my kids a glass of wine with their Thanksgiving meal, Christmas meal, birthday celebration and teach them moderation and not drinking and driving. I will also let them have a beer while watching sport with me, or in a similar family style venue. I do this because I want to be with my kids the first time they drink alcohol and I want them to be at home. I want them to be aware of what alcohol feels like, tastes like, while they are safe in my care. I do not want them to have their first drink while away at college where a keg and binge drinking is the norm.

Understand the difference?

14 people like this
Posted by Jerry
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 31, 2017 at 7:07 pm

PA is not a progressive city.

Prohibition does not work.

If parents are worried about their kids doing special_K, percocet, MDMA, or for heavens sake MARI-JUANA... that's exactly your job to talk to them about it and teach them the right time to experiment.

Also, marijuana is not addictive.

You can get your MJ "medicinal" cards in ~6 minutes on app WeedMD and have dank delivered that day via app WeedMaps within 60 minutes. You're welcome.

16 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 31, 2017 at 7:10 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Are your children younger than 21? If so, marijuana possession remains illegal for them in California. Nothing has changed.

If they're older than 21, they're legally considered adults who are presumably able to make their own decisions just like the rest of us adults.

12 people like this
Posted by Stanford, 3rd year
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 1, 2017 at 5:51 am

Your first sentence calls out the problem: "I do not want my kids to do drugs." Because then you say how you want to get your kids on booze at an early age. Alcohol IS a DRUG! A DEADLY DRUG! Good lord, I thought we had intelligent people in this town.

I'm surrounded by great, bright peers. Many have and still do use cannabis.
(That's right, they smoked in HS and got into Stanford) I also have friends that drink. I have a friend who was raped when drunk, I have a friend who was killed by a friend when the friend was driving drunk. I have a friend who was beaten by drunks at a bar, I have a friend who was convicted of DUI. The DRUG alcohol was the intoxicant they chose. Nothing even close to this has happened to ANY of my friends who do not drink.
Yes, yes, by all means, get them boozing at an early age. You can totally teach a kid not to become addicted. Do you think that? Good lord.

10 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 1, 2017 at 7:04 am

I generally supported de-criminalizing marijuana because it wasn't working: full prisons, no progress, and people left with felony records who forever have difficulty finding work. Prisons make people worse. So, okay, legalize it, regulate it and tax it.

That doesn't mean I want a pot shop on every corner.

Many people confuse legalization with an open door welcome to pot culture. Not me. Still don't like it, don't think it's healthy, I feel it's bad for students, I don't like the loser culture that it promotes, and I don't want it in my town.

Just because it is decriminalized doesn't mean we want it here.

Thank you City Council. Sincerely.

10 people like this
Posted by Waiting to exhale
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 1, 2017 at 10:48 am

Why is it always the extreme case brought up? Why is it never a single shop, why the thought that it's going to be a "Shop on every corner"? (Boo! Ooga-booga!)

Regardless, it will be avail from numerous sources so PA won't be excluded from anything but the revenues associated with the retail side. Those who want it will still easily get it by any number of different ways, and they can then freely use it in Palo Alto, even though they can't buy it there. I think that's just fine.

11 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 1, 2017 at 1:16 pm

I'm with my Community Center Neighbor -- absolutely support decriminalization, but appreciate the decision to exclude shops from our town. A study in Denver showed an 84% increase in property crimes in neighborhoods with an adjacent shop and other studies support the increased risk of crime when shops are allowed.

7 people like this
Posted by George
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 1, 2017 at 1:24 pm

Thanks to a wise city counsel - great decision. Proud of the counsel for saying no. Lighting up a joint on University avenue is just as unaccetable as lighting up a cigarette and no one wants that anymore. You could argue, and people did, that cigarettes were a great source of revenue but today, most choose to pass on those funds. Cigarettes were illegal but the very young still got them and still do. Arguments that a joint isn’t nearly as bad as a cigarette and not addictive are not compelling. I agree with those that think its really bad and should only be provided by prescription.
Those of us who voted to decriminalize did so because we did not want to see young people’s lives ruined using small amounts. It doesn’t mean that dealers became acceptable or pot shops or pot cafes or pot confection, beverages, cookies or massive backyard pot growing. It didn’t mean we wanted to make using it any more acceptable - the young, especially, should still think of it as a bad idea. And we should support parents who have an especially hard time now trying to raise children drug free. So, applause to the city counsel who put families and our community first.

8 people like this
Posted by Uh...
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 1, 2017 at 2:32 pm

"Those of us who voted to decriminalize did so because we did not want to see..."
How do you know this and how many voters are you speaking for...roughly.
I know you do not speak for me, so who are you trying to speak for?

[Portion removed.] Remember when everyone freaked out about medical cannabis? 2 full decades later and nothing really happened as the opponents tried to predict. Oh, except for the economic benefits.

I'm so past this petty squabbling from the booze addled minds of the drinking crowd. Try life without your precious wine or scotch for about 90 days. [Portion removed.]

10 people like this
Posted by Uh...
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 1, 2017 at 3:00 pm

Portola Valley just voted not to ban outdoor cultivation and sale of cannabis.

You know that PA city council that couldn't even build a pedestrian bridge correctly and seems to gum up seemingly everything put before them? They're at it again ;) No worries, it only affects Palo Alto. They're used to it.

8 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 1, 2017 at 9:55 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

You have had people smoking pot and parties with hard drugs over 40 years ago. Many of these people helped design the ICs and the computers that use them. This was when the WOD was started and the local cops knew where the parties were and warned about driving and drinking while stoned. These " stoners became company owners with big bucks. You do not want to know the names of people who " indulged ". Maybe Palo Alto will succeed when King Canute failed but I doubt it.

10 people like this
Posted by NoBogarting
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Nov 1, 2017 at 10:17 pm

Apparently the editor is censoring one word comments....
I said this debate is stupid.
We voted for it and the city council is deaf.
Time to deal with them.

1 person likes this
Posted by C-
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 2, 2017 at 1:09 pm

C- is a registered user.

Does anyone really care either way?

I never voted to decriminalize pot, but who in this city ever had an issue just crossing 101 to get some?

12 people like this
Posted by PA 1948
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 2, 2017 at 1:22 pm

As a senior who uses it in place of several previously prescribed medications, I would much rather stay in town. The door to door delivery services will continue to be a second best option for me.

13 people like this
Posted by Valerie
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 2, 2017 at 3:06 pm

As a 61-year resident of Palo Alto, I can only remark that this is not the smart, open-minded town that I grew up in. It's legal, ferrchrissake.

6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 2, 2017 at 11:13 pm

The most interesting part of the council debate is not covered in the article. Adrian Fine made a motion to allow large scale commercial cultivation and industrial processing of pot in the city. He argued that since Prop 64 allowed those activities within the state, Palo Alto is obligated to allow them within the city.

2 people like this
Posted by Hmm
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 3, 2017 at 10:45 am

I thought the most interesting thing was the decision

8 people like this
Posted by 5th Generation
a resident of Mayfield
on Jan 7, 2018 at 3:30 pm

I was really hoping that Palo Alto would be more progressive. Everyone seems to think the town is a liberal bastion, it has always been far from it! There was a time some kids in town were leaning liberal but they all grew up and moved away. What's left is a bunch of uptight fuddy-duddies and young Republicans. Sad.

I spent my teen years harassed by PA cops, shaking me down for a joint here, a small baggy there, confiscating a bong in my backpack or a pipe from my pocket. Glad that the State of California has ended prohibition. Palo Alto will follow, kicking and screaming, in another 20 years I guess.

6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 9, 2018 at 5:29 am

Legalization is an example of Progressivism ran amok. More like regressive

To all Progressives: sometimes it's better to leave well enough alone.

2 people like this
Posted by HUTCH 7,62
a resident of Portola Valley
on Jan 9, 2018 at 7:51 am

And don’t forget if you are a user of Marijuana though legal in many states. It is a Federal offense to be a Firearm owner. States like Hawaii and Maryland have already gone ahead and started prosecuting and confiscating Firearms from those that obtain MJ medical. Legal Marijuana (like Alcohol) can cause the user major legal problems. Do you homework

2 people like this
Posted by LOL
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 17, 2018 at 9:49 am

LOL is a registered user.

We didn't need the tax revenue anyway...idiots

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