Medical marijuana committee begins ordinance discussion |

Medical marijuana committee begins ordinance discussion

Adam Jensen

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Building permits and annual fire safety inspections will likely be a part of a South Lake Tahoe medical marijuana cultivation ordinance following the first meeting of a committee drafted to look at the ordinance on Wednesday.

The City Council formed the committee Aug. 19 after medical marijuana advocates protested restrictions in a previously proposed cultivation ordinance.

The committee consists of representatives from city departments, the owners of three medical marijuana collectives in South Lake Tahoe, and Jan McCarthy, who represents landlords’ interests.

Preventing damage to homes by unregulated, improperly constructed growing operations is the stated goal of the ordinance.

Discussion at Wednesday’s meeting touched on many aspects of the medical marijuana debate, from what role a landlord plays in regulating growing operations to a recent California State Supreme Court decision that prevents limits on the amount of medical marijuana a qualified patient can legally possess.

During the wide-ranging discussion, committee members agreed that annual fire safety inspections and building permits are likely good ideas to protect private property, especially rental properties, and keep growing operations safe.

But whether a building permit will be required for all medical marijuana growing operations is undecided.

Tahoe Wellness Collective Owner Cody Bass suggested the building permit requirement should only be triggered when a grow operation reaches a certain size, either 1,200 or 2,000 watts, because such operations are unlikely to create the problems the ordinance is trying to address.

Building Official Dave Walker agreed that it’s likely unnecessary to require a building permit for growing operations utilizing a small, store-bought growing system, but the committee did not reach a definitive conclusion on the issue.

And with the breadth of issues still to be discussed, including ventilation requirements and possible electrical limits, it’s unlikely the committee will be able to meet its deadline, Bass said.

The committee is expected to report back to the City Council at their Oct. 5 meeting.

While asking the City Council for additional time may be an option, City Manager Tony O’Rourke encouraged the group to focus on the existing deadline.

He said the cultivation ordinance will likely use existing city ordinances as a framework, rather than starting from scratch.

Copies of the relevant existing ordinances will be distributed to committee members prior to their next meeting, O’Rourke said.

The committee is scheduled to meet starting at 3 p.m. on Sept. 15 and 23 at Lake Tahoe Airport.

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