Council Passes Temporary Marijuana Ordinance, Lays Groundwork For More Sweeping Reforms


Under the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, which comprehensively regulates medical marijuana, the city is required to enact a local ordinance on cultivation by March 1 or it will have to follow state regulations. While the council heard an earful from the public, many whom urged them to take no action, the council went further, arguing that taking no action would leave the community at the mercy of the state.

Councilmember Brett Lee summed up the position of council by stating, “I think it’s essential that we maintain local control.” He noted that people were asking the council to take no action, but the state is “proposing a one-size-fits-all across California. Our city – as all cities are – is unique.”

He added, “It was mentioned that Davis is a liberal community – I think we’ll be thankful down the line when we have full control over how we move forward with the rules governing marijuana cultivation, distribution, etc. I think it’s essential to have something on the books, so that we maintain our ability to control this issue.”

Councilmember Lee pointed out that this would be a stopgap measure that could be modified later, but it would preserve the ability for the council to maintain control.

Under the law which took effect on January 1, the city is required to have land use regulations in place that regulate or prohibit marijuana cultivation. City staff notes, “If the City has local regulations in place, the City may thereafter modify these regulations to meet the needs and desires of the City. However, should the City not have local regulations in place (and the State does not take action to eliminate or modify the March 1 deadline), the City would be pre-empted from adopting local regulations in the future.”

While the state is potentially looking at giving local communities more time on this issue, staff notes, “Since the adoption of the Act, cities and counties throughout California have been put in the position of needing to make a decision to either allow the state regulations to take effect by default, or to craft and adopt ordinances that retain local control. The timeframe for local governments to take action is exceedingly short and, in many respects, unprecedented. The timeframe provided by the Act leaves little to no opportunity for local governments to undertake meaningful research and community outreach as would otherwise be expected when drafting local regulations.”

There is a marijuana legalization measure that is on the ballot for November that would render some of this discussion moot.

Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis suggested that, if the voters do not pass the initiative (and right now it is widely believed it will pass), “if marijuana is not legalized, then I think we should come back in the context of our goal setting and ask where doing something with this ordinance that we may pass tonight, where we want to take it.”

One of the questions that he suggested the city reconsider is whether we want to allow dispensaries, that are currently banned by city ordinance. “That’s in the case where recreational marijuana doesn’t pass because we still have the issue of medical marijuana,” he said. “If the voters pass recreational marijuana, then we’re going to be in a different world on a lot of levels… That’s going to be a very different discussion.”

He wanted to wait on the broader discussion until we see the direction the voters go at the state level.

As City Attorney Harriet Steiner pointed out, Davis made the decision to ban the dispensaries a long time ago and has never reconsidered it. It should be noted that when Proposition 215 first passed in 1996, the federal government fought its implementation and the Justice Department conducted frequent raids on dispensaries – a practice that began under the Clinton administration and was only ended under the Obama administration in 2009.

In 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder issued a statement that the Justice Department’s enforcement policy would now be restricted to traffickers who falsely masqueraded as medical dispensaries and “use medical marijuana laws as a shield.”

The new approach was said to be based on an assessment of how to allocate scarce enforcement resources. He said dispensaries operating in accord with California law would not be a priority for the administration.

That allowed officials in California and, at the time, 12 other states to consider adopting regulations carry out the laws, which had they had been hesitant to do, due to uncertainties created by the Bush administration. Still it took until 2015 for California to finally agree to those regulations in the form of the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act.

Councilmember Rochelle Swanson clarified with City Attorney Steiner that this particular ordinance only deals with cultivation, not mobile delivery. However, she too eventually favors a more wholistic approach.

“It’s medical,” she added. “Arguably the decision that we make here in our community either supports or interferes or has some impact on the relationship between patients and their medical treatment and what their prescribing physician has decided is best for them.”

Councilmember Frerichs said that the local control issue is important to him as well as his colleagues and he too favors a temporary ordinance. He said, “I do think when we re-visit it, I’m in favor of the potential changing of not only an expansion of this current ordinance but also the possible change in the prohibition of dispensaries. Society has changed, society has evolved, I think this community also would be generally very supportive of that. It would still be regulated certainly, but I’m willing to have that conversation.”

He noted that if marijuana is legalized, he wants the city look into ways to get revenue from it.

The council in a series of motions voted to allow indoor cultivation with limitations on the square footage of that cultivation. They then voted to prohibit all outdoor cultivation in all zoning districts in the city. Third, they voted to prohibit all commercial cultivation in all zoning districts in the city.

Councilmember Frerichs said, “I’ll support this (the commercial ban) for the purpose of the temporary ordinance.” But added, “I do think there needs to be a larger discussion certainly also about outdoor cultivation but also commercial cultivation.”

Robb Davis clarified that if they “are most conservative now, we won’t be taking anything away (later).”

Brett Lee moved that they not require registration, Rochelle Swanson seconded it and it passed unanimously.

Rochelle Swanson moved that this temporary ordinance expire in 18 months. Brett Lee suggested the issue be revisited after the November vote. She then modified the motion to have staff return in December 2016, after the vote.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. hpierce

    Perhaps part of the equation should be a local tax on the cultivation, sale, and/or use of marijuana, for any purpose… would be consistent with the concept of taxing soda/sugary drinks…

  2. Davis Progressive

    the council did well here, they understand that the feds are no longer raiding dispensaries and are willing to revisit the issue once the law is settled.  for once… well done.

  3. Frankly

    Talking to the owners of a distillery in Texas and asked them how it was working with TTB regulators.  The answer was very interesting.  Said that all alcohol regulators were slammed with legalized pot oversight and because of that were doing most of their alcohol industry reviews and oversight just on the paperwork submitted (no on-sight inspections).

    I bring this up because whatever the city does with respect to “control” it will likely have expenses in staff to provide oversight for that control.  Right now it is mostly law enforcement.  With legalization it would no longer be law enforcement.

    At $150,000 per year average total compensation per employee not including their unfunded long-term pension benefit liability, adding city employees for anything should be enough of a reason to shoot down any policy that requires them.

      1. Barack Palin

        So the cops would have resources to enforce bicyclists who run stop signs?

        Funny you say that.  Yesterday after seeing Star Wars at Regal I was stopped at a G St. stop sign and twice tried to proceed just to have to slam my brakes because of bikers running the stop sign.  The second one got a good doze of my horn as he passed right in front of my bumper.

  4. Barack Palin

    I expect that since second hand marijuana smoke is unhealthy our local social engineers should be screaming for taxing its use.

    Researchers tested smoke from marijuana with- and without tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the compound that gives pot users their high — but blood vessel function was impaired in both cases.
    Reduced blood vessel function may raise the chances of developing atherosclerosis — a process which causes plaque to build up in arteries, narrowing them and further restricting blood flow.

    1. Davis Progressive

      second hand smoke is bad for you, however, the research doesn’t take into account differences in how cigarettes are smoked versus marijuana.  people smoke cigarettes over a long period of time and they smoke them very frequently.  a heavy cigarette smokes is going to go through half a pack, a pack, maybe even two packs a day.  that’s a lot of smoke.  also they smoke them over a longer period of time.

      marijuana is smoked very differently.  for one thing, people don’t smoke the quantity of it.  for another, most efficient uses will concentrate the smoke over a very short period of time in bursts.

      bottom line, you’re simply never going to have a comparable situation where a passive exposure of marijuana smoke is going to be comparable to that of cigarette smoke.

      1. Barack Palin

        Ah, but think of the children that will be exposed to two pot smoking parents?  Those poor children will be around a lot second hand marijuana smoke and need to be protected, all of you social engineers better get on that.  Isn’t that how the game is played?  Or is marijuana taboo as a target for liberal feel gooders?

        1. Davis Progressive

          the game as you put it is also dependent on circumstances and as i said before, people smoke marijuana very differently than they do cigarettes.  does that change with legalization?  perhaps.  my experience is parents aren’t smoke marijuana or other drugs in front of their kids or around their kids.  does that change?  we’ll have to see.  right now, i don’t see this is a comparable circumstance to cigarettes.

        2. Barack Palin

          but blood vessel function was impaired in both cases.Reduced blood vessel function may raise the chances of developing atherosclerosis — a process which causes plaque to build up in arteries, narrowing them and further restricting blood flow.

          Sounds pretty bad to me, time to get a tax ordinance in the ready in order to protect the children when pot gets legalized.

        3. Davis Progressive

          yeah but what is the risk assessment?  what dosage?  what exposure level?  that’s the point robb davis was making last night with regards to nishi and air quality, yeah exposure has a risk, but it’s lower than a lot of other risks.

          in the 70s when i was a young man i would meet clients at bars and even if you were a non-smoker, you were exposed all night to heavy doses of cigarette smoke.  that’s not going to happen with marijuana because you’ll have the same smoking ordinances in place.  so the stuff might do bad things but at normal exposure, you’re not looking at a comparable situation.

        4. Barack Palin

          But as Tia stated about the soda tax, if only one child is saved from diabetes then it will have been worth it.  Having a marijuana tax could also save one child from developing atherosclerosis.  What you say, let’s get a feel good tax prepared so we might save that one child?

        5. Tia Will


          Not necessarily. Some who grow marijuana for their own use may smoke it. Others may ingest in various edible forms. The latter activity would not affect their children at all. This is not to belittle the idea of second hand marijuana smoke but rather to point out that home indoor growth for one’s own use does not equate to children being exposed to second hand growth.

          This usage would be more the equivalent of the use of snuff which to the best of my knowledge does not have an second hand effects except perhaps disgust.

          And to address your other point, I have no problem with a tax on the sale of marijuana.

    2. hpierce

      Sorry to be possibly off-topic… remember being in the UCD freshman dorms… early 70’s… one of the residents was into recreational pot use… also had gotten a Irish Setter puppy… second-hand pot smoke, Irish Setter puppy (~6 months old)… the dog would walk down the halls, bouncing from one wall to the other, happy to be your BFF, big smile on his face… Irish Setters are not the smartest of God’s creatures, and the addition of the second-hand smoke didn’t help…

      1. Alan Miller

        emember being in the UCD freshman dorms… early 70’s… one of the residents was into recreational pot use… also had gotten a Irish Setter puppy

        You could have a puppy in the dorms in the early 70’s?


        1. hpierce

          If nobody “ratted you out”… also even tho’ it was “prohibited”, there were many cases where there were women living in the male dorms/floors and vice versa… if folk were cool, it was an early version of “don’t ask, don’t tell”… except there were the occasional “Puritans”… the rest of us were just hoping we’d be next! [i.e., ‘get lucky’]

  5. Misanthrop

    Only grow it indoors. Why did they do that?DUMB. It will cause more electricity to be used and increase the risk of house fires. Cannabis should be grown in the sun as it has been for thousands of years. Every plant is a little solar panel. Its time to get over all this prohibition nonsense with marijuana. I’m sad to see all this effort to control pot even as we remove it from the contraband list. People should be able to grow a plant or two in their yards in the privacy of their curtilages for personal use.

    1. Alan Miller

      Only grow it indoors. Why did they do that?DUMB.

      Agreed Throp.  Probably PG&E sponsored it.  I came back from weeks away in 1982 to find my apartment with no power.  My roomate was growing plants in his closet and couldn’t pay the electricity bill, so PG&E cut the power.

      The reason the CC said they did it was to deter theft.  Personally, I’d rather someone rip off someone’s outdoor plants than break into their house, as well the risk of poorly-rigged indoor systems causing a fire seems a bigger concern.  Leave it up to growers if they want to risk the pot getting ripped off outdoors.  Of course, we should ban the use of land-mines to protect the outdoor crops.

      1. Don Shor

        Leave it up to growers if they want to risk the pot getting ripped off outdoors.

        If it’s ripped off by people who are not allowed to be in possession (i.e., teenagers), the property owner probably has some liability.

        1. Napoleon Pig IV

          What about morning glory growers? Do they have liability if a teenager harvests some?

          Prohibition, especially of species that grow wild and/or have been cultivated for thousands of years is stupid. But, what are politicians for if not to epitomize stupid. Oink!

          1. Don Shor

            Here are some of the local ordinances that have passed in cities and counties in California. Many or most contain some provision for screening or securing the marijuana plants. I would think the purpose would be obvious.
            Morningglory is not primarily grown or used as an intoxicant. As to liability for someone ingesting something as a result of trespass and theft, I’m not an expert. But the doctrine of attractive nuisance probably applies.

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