City leaders are taking steps leading to the regulation of recreational marijuana in Pomona, but before moving ahead they want to hear from residents.
City Council members gave preliminary approval Monday to a proposed ordinance with a strategy to regulate and include the issuance of permits for the indoor cultivation of marijuana for personal use. The proposed ordinance also sets prohibitions on smoking marijuana in designated areas.
The proposed ordinance was approved unanimously. Another proposed ordinance will be presented to council members within weeks.
Assistant City Attorney Andrew Jared said the proposed ordinance calls for banning commercial marijuana activity across the city.
Pomona, since 2008, has had a ban on all medical marijuana dispensaries.
The proposed ordinance banning commercial marijuana activity must first go to the city’s Planning Commission. The proposal is expected to go to the commission for review in August and then go to the City Council for a vote in September, Jared said.
Mayor Tim Sandoval said the legalization of marijuana, its cultivation and processing is an issue that “certainly will have an impact on this community.”
Residents approached Sandoval recently to speak with him about the matter following a recent outdoor concert during which some of those in attendance were consuming marijuana, he said.
“There was a noticeable smell that drove a lot of people away,” Sandoval said.
In addition, other residents made him aware of steps taken in Los Angeles to gather public comment as that city prepares to set its own recreational marijuana regulations, he said.
Pomona residents, Sandoval said, should have an opportunity to express their views on the matter.
“I suspect there are many people who have no idea of what we’re doing here today,” he said.
Sandoval suggested scheduling a series of meetings to gather public comments.
Councilwoman Ginna Escobar said the city could organize community meetings but shouldn’t attempt to have one in each district since the amount of time the city has to establish local regulations is limited.
On Nov. 8, 2016, California voters approved Proposition 64, the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act, and the next day it became legal for people 21 and older to use marijuana and to cultivate a maximum of six marijuana plants per residence for personal use.
The sale of marijuana for recreational purposes becomes legal Jan. 1. As of that day, the state will oversee the cultivation, testing and distribution of nonmedical marijuana and the manufacturing of nonmedical marijuana products.
Cities will have a say in the regulation of cannabis within their borders but only if they have controls in place before Jan. 1.
Sandoval will meet with City Manager Linda Lowry and members of the City Attorney’s Office to work out a community meeting schedule so the comments are collected before City Council members have the final vote on the proposed ordinance they reviewed this week.
Under the proposal, those 21 or older can cultivate a maximum of six plants for personal use but must do so indoors and have a permit.
The city cannot ban the cultivation of cannabis for personal use but it can regulate such activity and provide a means to address “security of plants, odor impact on neighboring properties and access to children,” according to the staff report.
Pomona resident Andrew Quinonez told council members requiring someone to grow the cannabis indoors could present a hardship.
A senior citizen living on fixed income wishing to cultivate marijuana for medicinal purposes may not have the money to acquire the equipment to grow the plants indoors, he said.
The City Council “should recognize the economics” behind such a proposal, Quinonez said.
The proposal prohibits smoking marijuana in public places — including the courtyards of residences or apartment complexes — and places that are visible from outside the property, according to a city staff report.
Using marijuana would be prohibited anywhere that smoking tobacco would be banned, Jared said.
State law prohibits smoking marijuana in private if it can be detected by people at school grounds, day care centers, youth centers or when children are present, the staff report read.
The personal cultivator permit would require submitting an application and payment of a fee to offset costs associated with compliance.
Jared said the fee would be set at a level to recover the costs of processing the application.
City staff will present a proposed fee at a later date, he said.
Councilwoman Cristina Carrizosa said the proposed ordinance was a good one, but she has concerns about its enforcement as well as including the requirement that renters wishing to grow marijuana have property owners’ authorization.
Jared said before a renter could be issued a permit to cultivate the plant the renter would have to obtain a notarized affidavit in which the property owner authorizes growing the cannabis.
“The idea is to have a regulator’s scheme in place,” Jared said.