South Lake Tahoe City Council aligns code on recreational marijuana with state law | TahoeDailyTribune.com

South Lake Tahoe City Council aligns code on recreational marijuana with state law

Residents in South Lake Tahoe (and across California) can grow up to six plants in their residence.

Move over ficus, there's a new houseplant in town.

South Lake Tahoe City Council took the necessary steps Tuesday to bring city codes on residential cultivation of marijuana up to compliance with state law. In short, anyone 21 years or older can grow up to six cannabis plants in their residence or a locked greenhouse, no permit necessary (though renters do need permission from the landlord).

City Attorney Tom Watson presented amendments to the residential medical marijuana cultivation code, brought forth by Prop. 215, to reflect the changes voted in for recreational cultivation by Prop. 64 in November. After a discussion with council that clarified this would not — in any way — allow the commercial sale of recreational marijuana, council approved the changes unanimously.

"Our current ordinance that exists today allows for 200 square feet of [medical] marijuana grow in a residential home in a residential neighborhood by permit only," explained Watson. "We are making the change to eliminate the permit requirement, eliminate the 200 square foot requirement, and allow any individual in a residential facility, residential home, to grow six plants consistent with Prop 64."

Cody Bass, executive director of the medical marijuana dispensary Tahoe Wellness Cooperative, voiced concerns over the amendments to residential medical marijuana cultivation.

"I do have concerns with the way that the ordinance is being amended to the fact that we are striking out medical and just leaving marijuana in place there. I think it should be understood that Prop 215 is still on the books as a valid law and there are a lot of unknowns right now on how these two laws will work together, if at all," expressed Bass.

"[Medical marijuana patients] are allowed to have whatever their doctor says they can have — they can have over six plants."

The amended city code — which lumps together residential medical and recreational marijuana cultivation — now states that permit holders for residential medical marijuana cultivation in South Lake Tahoe have a year to reduce their grow from 10 percent of the dwelling's square footage (capped at 200 square feet) down to six plants.

Two of these permit holders — there are currently only three in the city — came forward at the council meeting to say they believe there should be permitting requirements for residential medical marijuana cultivation, especially because for many patients, six plants is not enough.

"I think we need to make permits available for medical patients. These laws don't necessarily work for both. I'm a medical patient; I have a permit [to grow]. Six plants is not going to do it for me, personally," said Matt Buckingham, who has a doctor's prescription for up to 99 plants, though he said he currently has closer to 30.

No actions were taken on the issue of regulating medical versus recreational cultivation, though Bass offered to help council going forward when it comes to developing policies.

The discussion on whether or not the city will allow, limit or prohibit the commercial sale and cultivation of recreational marijuana come Jan. 1, 2018, will take place sometime in the near future, but no set date was mentioned at the council meeting.

"We are waiting to understand the law better. Once we do that, we will be having discussions," said Mayor Austin Sass.