BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
Daily Post Staff Writer
Mountain View City Council voiced unanimous support Wednesday (Sept. 20) for allowing recreational marijuana shops, growing pot for personal use and allowing deliveries of the drug in the city, going against the grain in a county that has mostly shunned marijuana-related business.
“I see this as an opportunity,” Vice Mayor Lenny Siegel said. “We’ve been struggling in our commercial districts with attracting retail… It is a product that people want and are willing to pay for.”
In a non-voting study session, council decided to have City Manager Daniel Rich write an amendment to the zoning code that would permit and regulate commercial marijuana activity, other than commercial cultivation, which they reasoned wouldn’t make sense in a city with such expensive land.
Mountain View, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, Los Gatos, Santa Clara and San Jose are the only cities in Santa Clara County that have not banned commercial marijuana activity, though some are on the road to do so by Jan. 1.
Last month, Palo Alto’s Planning and Transportation Commission voted unanimously to recommend continuing its 1997 ban on dispensaries. Palo Alto City Council has not yet taken up the matter.
Dispensaries brought San Jose $11 million in tax revenue in the last fiscal year. Patrons there are taxed 10% on the gross receipt of marijuana sales.
A talk at the last League of California Cities conference recommended taxing marijuana somewhere between 3% and 7%, Siegel noted. Voters would need to approve the new sales tax.
Support from local voters
Sixty-eight percent of Mountain View voters, including Mayor Ken Rosenberg, he noted at council, supported Proposition 64 in November, dwarfing Santa Clara County’s overall rate of support for legalized pot of 58%.
Siegel noted that smoking marijuana is “socially acceptable” in Mountain View. “We shouldn’t pretend otherwise,” he said.
Councilman John McAlister noted that pot shops in other states seemed discreet.
“I did a couple of side trips to Eugene, Ore. and Boulder, Colo., and I looked for dispensaries and I never could see one,” McAlister said. “I never saw anybody smoking in public in Bend, Ore. or Boulder.”
The city banned medical marijuana shops and associated businesses in 2010, but since Prop. 64 passed, that prohibition is set to become null and void unless council moves it to the city’s Zoning Code.
On Nov. 1, council banned outdoor grow operations in an interim urgency ordinance before the election, but opted not to extend it in December. Since then, personal cultivation of the drug, both indoors and outdoors, has been legal in the city.
Comparison to Prohibition
Councilwoman Pat Showalter said that growing up in the South, she knew people old enough to remember the catastrophe of alcohol Prohibition from 1920 to 1933.
“People made alcohol with stills that were dangerous… I think that marijuana is a similar thing,” Showalter said, adding that the added public safety of government regulation was “a really important reason why this should be regulated.”
To give the city time to develop regulations before activity becomes legal on Jan. 1, council at an upcoming meeting will vote on two ordinances, one banning marijuana deliveries and a second banning all other commercial marijuana activity in the city for 45 days.
If all goes as planned, Mountain View would begin accepting applications for licenses to operate marijuana stores on Jan. 2, the first business day of the new year.