An ordinance requiring marijuana growers in Los Banos to register with the city was modified Wednesday to ensure privacy and then adopted unanimously by the City Council.
The ordinance adds another layer of regulation to the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which was approved by California voters on Nov. 8.
The council also agreed to revisit the ordinance in 18 months to determine the impact of the new law and how other cities are responding.
The city’s ordinance bans all commercial activities related to marijuana, including dispensaries and cultivation centers. It also bans smoking marijuana on city grounds, and allows for administrative citations against those causing a nuisance to others.
“This is a living document,” Mayor Mike Villalta said, adding that the city has the prerogative to tighten regulations if there is a need. “We have to start someplace ... this is a good start.”
State law allows people 21 and older to obtain, sell and cultivate marijuana. Those individuals can possess up to one ounce of marijuana, and cultivate up to six plants.
The state law sets forth regulations on commercial activities, including a 15 percent excise tax. Driving under the influence of marijuana still remains illegal. The state law also allows local governments to completely ban businesses or commercial activities based in marijuana. That’s what the modified Los Banos ordinance does.
The city’s ordinance also prohibits smoking marijuana in places where smoking tobacco isn’t allowed. People can’t possess, smoke or ingest marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school, day care center or youth center when children are present, except if it’s inside a private residence.
Possession of an open package or using marijuana while riding in a vehicle, boat, vessel or aircraft is prohibited within the city limit. Los Banos employers still have discretion to fire employees for marijuana use.
The ordinance bans all outdoor cultivation while allowing up to six plants to be grown inside a private residence, only for personal use.
The ordinance also calls for a registry for people growing plants. City officials said the goal of the registry is to mandate that growers are at least informed about the safety and fire risks behind growing marijuana.
“Most of the incidents you read in the paper, especially indoor grows, involves fires and explosions and things like that,” city attorney William Vaughn said. “We’d like to try to keep that to a minimum.”
However, at a first reading of the ordinance on Dec. 7, some people were concerned about privacy issues with the registry.
Councilman Scott Silveira brought up the possibility of a public registry being used to name home growers, potentially opening them up to shaming, harassment or violence.
However, Vaughn and senior planner Stacy Souza Elms on Wednesday announced a revision to the registry plan that avoids collection of personal data.
While how the registry works is still being formulated, Souza Elms said the preliminary plan has growers filling out an electronic survey that goes through the safety points and provides a certificate at the end.
Along with that certificate, growers will be required to obtain, and show when needed, a letter granting the resident permission to grow if the grower isn’t the homeowner.
The registry will not store personal information in a database, officials said, noting that the registry will just show staff how many people have signed up.
Silveira said he was pleased with the changes, but was also concerned about the potential loss of tax revenue to the city by restricting commercial use.
The City Council agreed to Silveira’s suggestion of revisiting the ordinance at the first meeting of July 2018 at the latest, six months after the state starts to issue licenses to marijuana distributors.
Vikaas Shanker: 209-826-3831, ext. 6562