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Indoor Cannabis Growing Operations Rejected By Woodland Council

Indoor Cannabis Growing Operations Rejected By Woodland Council
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Woodland’s City Council has rejected indoor cultivation of commercial cannabis as well as any dispensaries and at-home delivery by local distributors.

Coming after almost a year of work by city staff, Planning Commission and acting against the recommendations of two council members serving on an Ad Hoc Cannabis Subcommittee, council’s 4-1 decision was an about-face from the body’s previous “go slow” approach.

The decision comes in advance of the Jan. 1 legalization of recreational cannabis use as permitted by voter-approved Prop. 64.

While the council still intends to issue conditional use permits for cannabis, they will only be allowed for manufacturing and processing, distribution, testing and out-of-town retail delivery.

City staff and planners had supported indoor cultivation sites of 25,000 square feet along with dispensaries in the outer, industrial areas of the community. Permitted operations will still number no than six, although the Planning Commission supported an upper limit of eight.

The series of actions came as part of an initial public hearing to adjust the city’s zoning code to provide for where commercial cannabis cultivation could along with a plethora of rules — most of them state-mandated — under which it could be grown, packaged and distributed, along with conditions for permit fees covering safety such as video cameras and hours of operation, accounting and distance from schools and private property among others.

The action taken Tuesday night by the council was also considered the “first reading” of the ordinances, which will be brought back before the council over the coming weeks after they have been “cleaned up” and modified to reflect the council’s decision. That second reading is set for Dec. 5, which if approved, would allow the ordinances to take effect on Jan. 4. Application forms and review of permits would start in January.

The city had been following the council’s earlier mandate for an “incremental approach” toward cannabis cultivation because neither the benefits, social effects or costs of implementation and processing of permits are yet known.

The decision by the council — with Tom Stallard opposed — came primarily because the votes for the staff proposal weren’t there.

None of the council members was interested in commercial storefronts and none of the council members wanted to see outdoor cultivation.

However, Councilman Enrique Fernandez got bogged down in how delivery should be made, preferring that no cash transactions be allowed for safety reasons. State regulations allow for the use of apps or other non-cash forms of payment, but the city ordinance didn’t address the matter.

Fernandez also questioned the “volatility” or safety of the chemicals used in the cultivation and processing. However, City Manager Paul Navazio said that based on information provided by the Fire Department and elsewhere, the chemicals and processes used were actually safer than some types of food processing operations.

Fernandez also thought 25,000 square feet was too much space and was also worried that since marijuana use and cultivation is still illegal at the federal level, the city could be asking for trouble later. Meanwhile, Councilman Skip Davies — who made the final motion to reject indoor cultivation and other limitations — said the “financial model” being used by the city might not be enough to cover the staff time for processing the permits and monitoring the operations.

Navazio agreed that the fees might be either too high or too low, but were in line with what other cities for asking. However, he acknowledged that permit fees across the Sacramento region “are all over the map”.

Those fees as currently envisioned would be $40,000 a year for manufacturing and processing of “volatile” products, $39,440 for “non-volatile” manufacturing and processing, $29,340 for testing and laboratory work, and $13,760 for out-of-town delivery permits.

Had indoor-cultivation and local retail delivery been approved, the fees would have been $28,900 and $27,740 a year respectively.

Navazio also seemingly supported the recommendation by the Planning Commission to increase the number of permits from six to eight, because it would be more cost efficient.

“If we look at 10 to 15 actual business permits,” he said, “it would be easier to implement the program (because specific staff could be hired for the work) but if we have one or two then we do it with existing staff and that will be harder.”

Davies said he was comfortable with the zoning regulations as proposed by the city but “not comfortable with indoor cultivation.” Stallard, however, who has in the past taken an almost laissez-faire view of cultivation, seemingly took a 180-degree stance on Tuesday. “

One of the things that concerns me is the amount of staff time,” the issue has taken up, he said. “I’m concerned that it’s diverted too much of our attention. We have $100 million in development applications before us and the fact is that every (cannabis) permit is going to take an enormous amount of time.

“I feel that our residents who want access to cannabis have access to it in Davis and Sacramento,” he said. “I’ve gone full circle on this. I would be comfortable on going slow. But I want to take the position of Roseville and Sacramento and not allow it as a permitted use in Woodland.”

That left it to Mayor Angel Barajas, who along with Xochitl Rodriguez served on the Cannabis Subcommittee to develop the recommendations.

Barajas agreed with Rodriguez that indoor cultivation would “provide the revenue for needed services” as well as reduce black market activity. He also favored local businesses making local deliveries rather than others from outside the city serving Woodland clients.

“We have to spend some staff time to see future economic development,” he said, “and we need to strive to move in that direction.”

Barajas also agreed with Davies about the fees perhaps being too low and with Fernandez on some of his environmental concerns.

But he added that the fees could be adjusted and any environmental issues monitored.

However, given the opposition of Stallard and Davies to outdoor cultivation, and the hesitancy of Fernandez on security and processing “volatility,” there was slim chance of passage.

Because of that Barajas and Rodriguez supported Davies’ motion — as did Fernandez — to omit indoor cultivation and locally based dispensaries.

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