BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
Daily Post Staff Writer
Palo Alto City Council has banned marijuana-related business in town, other than deliveries, in a move intended to retain local control over regulation of the drug before the state starts issuing permits to cannabis businesses on Jan. 1.
The council voted unanimously on Monday night to keep commercial marijuana activity, including shops, facilities for testing and manufacturing and commercial grow operations out of town. Without the ban, marijuana businesses could open up and obtain a state permit on Jan. 1.
In the meantime, the city will have time to decide how it wants to regulate marijuana business moving forward — but the council is still split on that.
About two-thirds of Palo Altans, including Mayor Greg Scharff and Councilman Cory Wolbach, voted for Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, last November.
“At a high level, I think our city is being a bit too tepid and overly conservative on this,” Councilman Adrian Fine said. Fine reasoned that as local retail businesses, pot shops in other cities had “helped certain neighborhoods come back to life” and would bring the city tax revenue.
Marijuana transactions will include a 15% state excise tax, which will go into effect next year.
Mountain View and San Jose are planning to allow pot shops and other marijuana businesses, Fine added. If Palo Alto maintains its ban on pot shops, it will lose out on that local business.
Vice Mayor Liz Kniss indicated that while she might be able to see a future for marijuana business in town, she didn’t think the timing was right.
Watch and wait
“I think we have a great opportunity to watch the city right next door and see what happens with them,” Kniss said, referring to Mountain View.
Fine and Wolbach pushed to have City Attorney Molly Stump bring back a motion on opening up the city to commercial marijuana activity in six months, but the other seven council members showed less enthusiasm for bringing marijuana businesses into Palo Alto.
Scharff said that while he thinks marijuana should be legal in California, he doesn’t want marijuana businesses in Palo Alto. He pointed out that in 2012, 62.8% of Palo Altans opposed Measure C, the Palo Alto Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Initiative, which would have allowed three nonprofit dispensaries in town.
The state government will release draft regulations for the permitting process in mid-November. In the meantime, Palo Alto still allows personal cultivation of up to six plants per home.