South Lake Tahoe City Council approves temporary cannabis moratorium
December 13, 2017
With the state of California ready to start issuing permits for recreational marijuana businesses Jan. 2, South Lake Tahoe City Council unanimously approved a temporary moratorium on the businesses.
The move made on Tuesday, Dec. 12, is intended to prevent such businesses from opening before the city adopts regulations for the recreational cannabis industry, which several councilmembers hope to have done by June.
As Nira Doherty, city attorney, explained Tuesday, local jurisdictions in California have the right to decide for themselves if they want to allow marijuana businesses. With state permitting set to begin in the new year, cities either need to adopt regulations or prohibit the businesses before Jan. 1.
Absent either regulations or a ban, businesses could acquire a temporary license from the state and set up shop — a move that many cities and counties have sought to avoid.
South Lake Tahoe was making the wise decision, Doherty said, to wait and construct more robust regulations. The city has already undertaken extensive efforts to study the issue of recreational cannabis, she added.
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Those efforts include the formation of a cannabis subcommittee made up of a cross section of community members. Two councilmembers also serve on the subcommittee.
The temporary urgency ordinance adopted Tuesday bans recreational cannabis retail sales, cultivation, edible production and testing for 45 days. The ordinance does not change previously authorized uses, including the city's lone medical cannabis dispensary, and it does not impact personal use rights authorized by Prop. 64 — the measure that voters approved in 2016 to legalize cannabis.
The temporary ban would expire in late January, but City Council can and is expected to extend it before that happens.
Speaking to a time line, Councilmember Brooke Laine, who serves on the subcommittee along with Mayor Pro Tem Tom Davis, said the committee hopes to have a recommendation on regulations to council in late March or April. Barring extended discussion and hiccups, that would allow for cannabis regulations to be in place by June.
Wendy David, who was unanimously selected on Tuesday to serve as mayor for the next year, remarked the committee was pursuing an aggressive time line.
Very little was said in the form of public comment Tuesday. Looking at the bigger picture, Cody Bass — the executive director of Tahoe Wellness Cooperative, South Lake Tahoe's only medical marijuana dispensary — noted the changes happening following legalization at the state level.
"There's really a lot of exciting things happening within the industry," Bass said.
Although he vaguely touched on the legal issues between Tahoe Wellness Cooperative and the city, Bass said he hoped to work with the city as it continues to study the issue and move toward more permanent regulations.
"I would just urge this City Council to work with us and realize that we're your partners. We want to do nothing more than be good … community members and work to make this happen," Bass told council.
All five members of City Council voted in favor of the temporary ban.
In adopting the ordinance, South Lake Tahoe joins other California municipalities that have hit the pause button on recreational cannabis.
CORRECTION: This story originally contained an inaccurate date for the expiration of the ban.