by Eric M. Gudz
In the 6th hour of an already contentious evening of civics in the City of Davis Community Chambers, The City Council voted 4-0 (R. Swanson not present for vote) on Tuesday, November 1st to enact two urgency moratoriums, defining new regulations for marijuana in the city (or the more appropriate term “cannabis”, which is slowly entering our legal lexicons once more).
The first ordinance that passed focused on regulating “commercial marijuana uses”, which the city defines as any aspect of commercial activity that relates to medical and non-medical marijuana. As the laws stood prior to the urgency moratorium, the only aspects of cannabis that were explicitly regulated within the city were cultivation and brick-and-mortar dispensaries. The city initiated a moratorium on physical dispensaries back in 2004, and just this January they set regulations for personal indoor medical cannabis cultivation while banning outdoor and commercial medical cannabis cultivation (due to the passage of the MCRSA at the state level). While both topics are expected to be revisited and reconsidered in the coming months by the council, they were not the focus for the urgency ordinances in consideration.
This first urgency ordinance placed into effect a moratorium on all “commercial marijuana uses” for both medical and non-medical marijuana, for an initial period of 45 days, that were not already explicitly defined within the city regulations (with the possibility of extension for another 90 days if approved by council). As the staff explained in those early morning hours of the meeting, this moratorium would allow the city time to gather community input, conclude research efforts, and present sensible regulations for the council’s consideration, beginning first with medical cannabis policy.
At the request of the council and the medical cannabis patient community here in Davis, the staff placed explicit declarations in this urgency ordinance that protects and prioritizes the rights of this patient community as defined by state law in Prop 215 and Senate Bill 420 (which are still active until they sunset in 2018 by new state law). Specifically, exemptions to this ban include the existing patient collectives and cooperatives that are currently serving the needs of the patient community via delivery within the city limits, which operate in lieu of any physical dispensary establishments.
As for the second urgency ordinance, which dealt with the explicit inclusion of cannabis smoking within the current city smoking ordinances, the council raised concerns over the effects of the ordinance’s proposed language on the rights of medical patients.
Specifically, the language would have added all public sidewalks and public/private parking lots to the list of prohibitive locations within the city, which would have had the danger of targeting vulnerable communities (such as patients who were not allowed to consume their medicine because of landlord requests or those without homes).
The council expressed interest in keeping the local smoking laws for cannabis on par with tobacco, whereby a series of smoking regulations went into effect last year. Councilmember Will Arnold advocated for these increased cannabis smoking restrictions to only apply to non-medical, adult use and not medical use cannabis, expressing concern for the rights of medical cannabis patients and ensured that their perspectives are not lost in the policy discussions.
With an amended version that defined the additional restrictions in terms of non-medical use only, the second urgency ordinance passed with the required 4-0 vote, ending the evening’s deliberations just shortly before 1:00 AM.
While these urgency moratoriums did place temporary bans on the immediate development of cannabis businesses seeking to establish themselves in the city (putting the brakes on out-of-town speculation), it also strengthened the city’s commitment to our own medical cannabis patient community in town, who have been ready to begin honest, productive conversations with our public officials for some time.
These decisions come just days before Californians will decide the fate of non-medical, adult-use legalization via Prop 64, which has a comfortable 57% polling in the YES camp. While it’s understandable to be excited about the social justice advancements and the possibility of community development funding via tax revenue with the nonmedical, adult-use market, the council made it clear that the rights of our medical cannabis patient community will be centerstage in future policy considerations.
Eric is the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Integrate Cal, a Benefit Corporation focused on blending community development with local planning to guide emerging cannabis businesses in Northern California, and the Vice Chair of the National Board of Directors for Students for Sensible Drug Policy, a global non-profit working to end the injustices caused by the war on drugs through education and harm reduction. Eric holds a Master’s of Science in Transportation, Technology, and Policy from the University of California at Davis, and he holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Conservation Biology from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.