News

Palo Alto moves ahead with ban on outdoor pot growth

New ordinance anticipates possible passage of Prop. 64

Growing marijuana outdoors would remain illegal in Palo Alto, even if California voters agree on Election Day to legitimize the practice elsewhere in the state, thanks to a ordinance that the City Council passed Monday night.

Proposition 64, which will be on the Nov. 8 ballot, would make recreational marijuana use legal throughout the state and allow anyone over 21 to cultivate up to six plants indoors. But the ordinance is mum on outdoor cultivation, a factor that prompted Palo Alto to consider the new regulation.

In approving the ordinance by a 7-1 vote, with Mayor Pat Burt dissenting and Councilman Tom DuBois absent, the council also agreed to set an expiration date for the ordinance (in 12 months) and to defer formal adoption until after Nov. 8, after the voters have spoken.

While Burt saw no reason to rush with adopting the new ordinance, others characterized the ban as a cautious move that would give the community time to figure out the best way to move ahead on the issue. And by choosing to pass a regular ordinance over an “emergency ordinance” (which would require eight votes, with the ordinance taking effect immediately after adoption), the council signaled that while the issue is worth further exploration, it isn't exactly urgent at this time.

“I do think it's important that we buy ourselves a little bit of time to figure out what the appropriate response is, should Proposition 64 pass,” Councilman Cory Wolbach said during the Monday discussion.

Vice Mayor Greg Scharff agreed and said he would like to see the city have an ordinance in place “that allows us to come back and look at the issue.”

Several public speakers objected to the action, characterizing it as nothing short of reefer madness, including City Council candidate John Fredrich.

Fredrich, a retired Gunn High School civics teacher, wondered why the issue is even being considered as an “emergency.” Since the Richard Nixon years, he said, America's war on drugs has been a “complete failure,” leading to narco-states in Colombia and Afghanistan.

Passing the ordinance before Election Day would only muddle the issue for voters, he said. Fredrich also noted that Prop. 64 already includes "provisions calling for outdoor marijuana plants to be in a locked area and not visible from the roadway.”

After hearing from the public, the council decided to move ahead with an ordinance banning outdoor cultivation. Based on Schmid's suggestion, the ordinance wouldn't come to the council for a “second reading” (a necessary step for a formal adoption) until after the election.

As the sole dissenter, Burt argued that the city should do more evaluation before it passes a new ordinance, including consultation with the Palo Alto Fire Department about the relative virtues and pitfalls of indoor versus outdoor cultivation.

“I think us looking at a permanent ordinance is fine, but I don't quite understand why we'd be moving on the particular permanent ordinance before us without having the input mentioned, including from the fire chief,” Burt said. “I'm not sure it's a good idea at all.”

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Comments

46 people like this
Posted by Enviroresidentialist
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 25, 2016 at 9:37 am

Indoor cultivation has a much larger carbon footprint than outdoor cultivation. The ordinance would be in direct conflict with Palo Alto's climate action goals.
Furthermore, indoor cultivation creates a fire hazard, whereas outdoor cultivation does not. Thus the ordinance is contrary to encouraging public safety.
I hope the council considers these elements as well as the more superficial posterior covering that have informed the discussion to date

Palo Alto has a long history of backyard cultivation, so it is not as if this is a new practice.


21 people like this
Posted by Not Really
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2016 at 11:17 am

Many wildland fires have been caused by outdoor grows. The recent Loma fire, for example, atarted because of an outdoor grow that was growing pot for a Santa Cruz medical Marijuana outfit. In the Santa Cruz Mountains, the majority of Human caused fires are now originating on pot farms.


18 people like this
Posted by Heidi
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 25, 2016 at 11:31 am

While I think it's smart to think ahead, I'm not sure banning a tiny outdoor garden is smart?
Wouldn't that encourage people to rent our many "ghost houses" and inside them instead? I agree with the commenter above that that sounds dangerous and would bring electricity/energy levels to crazy highs.

I doubt many people in Palo Alto would be major pot growers anyway; everyone is far too busy and hardly anyone has enough space anyway to grow a whole farm...


37 people like this
Posted by indoors
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 25, 2016 at 12:10 pm

To avoid grow houses in our residential neighborhood I'd suggest also banning growing indoors.


16 people like this
Posted by No Not Really
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 25, 2016 at 1:12 pm

Hey Not Really, you make claims with no facts and I think you are spouting false information. How about some links to prove what you are saying.

Many wildfires have been started by lightning. Many wildfires have been started by kids.

"...the majority of Human caused fires are now originating on pot farms." What a crock this comment is??? Seriously? Go away.


36 people like this
Posted by Jerry Garcia
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 25, 2016 at 1:17 pm

Palo Alto moves ahead with not asking the citizens what they want and not thinking progressively.

Shouldn't the citizens be voting on this and not government telling us what we can and can't do?

Hey John Fredrich, you got my vote!


27 people like this
Posted by sve
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 25, 2016 at 1:34 pm

sve is a registered user.

Some residents think growing pot should be ok, others don't. This whole issue of whether to allow growing pot indoors or outdoors should be put to a vote by the people. Oh wait, it is being put to a vote - Prop 64. That's how disagreements are settled in this country - by vote. Have the vote and respect the results.


30 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of Southgate
on Oct 25, 2016 at 2:13 pm

I'll be voting NO for any incumbent councilperson on the ballot next week.


7 people like this
Posted by 25 years and counting
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 25, 2016 at 2:17 pm

You know why this won't be enforced at the "Small guy" level? Because of all the small backyard grows currently going on without obstruction.
If legalization happens, one would expect it to be even less of a priority, if that's even possible.
I think this law enables them to go after the big grow houses even after legalization.


41 people like this
Posted by Indendent
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 25, 2016 at 2:18 pm

Indendent is a registered user.

The grow-lights needed for indoor cultivation are extremely electricity-intense.

So what if someone has a small greenhouse and grows a few cannabis plants with their peonies and orchids?

No one in Palo Alto but a handful of billionaires have property large enough to cultivate enough plants to make a profit from them!

The City Council needs to grow up and stay out of people's back yards!


27 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 25, 2016 at 4:06 pm

I don't understand what problem is that this is solving. I can see passing an ordnance if there was a problem, but this seems to be a reaction to something because it might be a problem.

It's especially odd since the state is about to make it legal, assuming Prop 64 passes. How can the city ban cultivation of something that is legal?


8 people like this
Posted by Not Really
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2016 at 5:46 pm

No not really,

Google is your friend. Just enter pot farms and fires.

That will help you, though some of my information comes from talking to firefighters that fight fires in the SC mountains,
I have no links for that. The area that burned has a lot of farms. You can see them via google earth pre fire.

The farms up there made National news and they were reported all over

Web Link

Here is one, just enter loma fire and pot farms
Have fun


5 people like this
Posted by curious
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 25, 2016 at 6:03 pm

Has anyone read the actual full text of Prop 64?

Did any of the 600,000 signers of the initiative read it?


24 people like this
Posted by Susan
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 25, 2016 at 8:01 pm

Do you really think that people growing pot outside are going to grow it where people can see it? If they did, it would be ripped off in no time. Besides, do we want our police department going around and issuing citations (for growing pot outdoors) when they have better things to do.


6 people like this
Posted by Brian Guth-Pasta
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 25, 2016 at 11:27 pm

@Enviroresidentialist This is the stepping stone to full legalization. Once people realize the "greener" alternative it will be enacted. Until then, we have to take these steps.


4 people like this
Posted by No Not Really
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 26, 2016 at 9:31 am

Hey No Really,

Shouldn't we legalize it so people stop growing illegal gorilla farms in the mountains and thus stop causing fires??? If it were legalized and regulated people would not have to be so secretive about it and thus better practices would be used in handling it. Duh!

There's more! If it were legal the supply will go up and demand down thus limiting the need for big grow ops in the hills! Wow! All large operations can be safely relocated to valley real estate. Wow!

Have fun.

Or keep it illegal and continue in the terrible cycle.


4 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 26, 2016 at 10:25 am

The big problem I see here is the influx of people "visiting" home owners so we have a number of people roaming the neighborhoods that don't belong here. There is the possibility of people showing up in your back yard who you do not know. Once word of mouth says you have plants in your property then you are open to people trespassing on your property. Do you all check the Police Blotter page? All types of weird activity going on all over the city. It is not typically the residents but people who come through and get into trouble.
I had some kid parked in the block who was smoking pot - I told him to move on - he said he had a "card" so was legal. Guess what - not legal to smoke in your car in a residential area.
I have already seen some of this type activity and will call the police if any strange activity arises.


13 people like this
Posted by Facinating
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 26, 2016 at 10:52 am

I'm enjoying watching the social change and look fwd to the future when use is as common as the glasses of alcohol that adorn all our dining tables. I guess mostly I look fwd to people realizing this and no longer feeling the need to discuss it much more. The change is happening right now.


13 people like this
Posted by Penny
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 26, 2016 at 4:01 pm

Good to see the city working on important issues.

/sarcasm


8 people like this
Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 27, 2016 at 9:46 am

I thought the point of no outdoor cultivation was to increase revenue to the city due to the electricity needed to grow indoors.

:^)

/marc


8 people like this
Posted by cvvhrn
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 27, 2016 at 11:15 am

I doubt that the PAPD will having roving teams on the hunt for backyard grows. They will only knock on your door in the time honored Palo Alto tradition of one neighbor narcing (pun intended) on another.


Like this comment
Posted by No really
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 27, 2016 at 11:48 am

No not really,

Oh I am all for legalizing it. I think it can be grown responsibly. My point was growing it tends to not stop with a couple plants in someone's backyard like fruit trees.


6 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 27, 2016 at 3:12 pm

Another validation, of why I'll NOT be voting for any incumbent councilperson on the ballot next week. Good to see the city working on important issues. Personally, I'd rather see the police department not wasting time and tax payers $s, issuing citations (for growing pot outdoors) when we have home invasions, robberies, and other crimes for them to address.


9 people like this
Posted by Another Tom
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 27, 2016 at 5:53 pm

Oh guys, come on. The PA Police can't even enforce the ban on gas leaf blowers and those are pretty easy to find on any street, any day of the week. So ahead and grow. Just don't be too obvious. And even then....


8 people like this
Posted by Butch Cassidy
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 28, 2016 at 8:46 am

I see a hedge around Palo Alto while we once again stick our head in the sand. This used to be such a forward thinking ,progressive ,great place to live ! Embarrassing
thanks again council !


2 people like this
Posted by Enviroresidentialist
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 28, 2016 at 10:43 am

@resident The problem of visitors is not new. As I mentioned above, small-scale backyard growing is a long-standing practice in Palo Alto. @Another Tom describes the past and likely future situation.

While the number of plants in the city is likely to increase in Palo Alto, it is likely to increase even more on other cities. If I were a visitor of the type you describe, I would most likely chose a different city for my collecting trips.


8 people like this
Posted by Change is tough for some
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 28, 2016 at 11:29 am

They were not allowed to ban indoor growing. They would have done that as well IMO if they could have, but they could only ban the outdoor.
Basically they are being babies, kicking and screaming as they are forced into the future ;)


6 people like this
Posted by sve
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 29, 2016 at 11:42 am

sve is a registered user.

The whole idea of legalizing marijuana was that it is just not justifiable to drag someone through the expensive police, judicial, mandated therapy, and incarceration system. Just because they wanted to smoke pot. Prisons and city employees are expensive to pay for, by the residents. They should be reserved for illegal activities that harm our residents. Pot doesn't meet that harm measure. It is just used as a pretense to harass people, especially those of color. That is why California is voting on legalizing it, and will probably pass it - decisively. This poking into other people's private affairs that harms no one has to stop.


Like this comment
Posted by curious
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 29, 2016 at 12:19 pm

It follows that prostitution will be next, as long as it's indoors.


6 people like this
Posted by Not Really
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2016 at 12:46 pm

So whereas drinking alcohol is legal, operating a still in your home is not.
A lot of whether this should be done at home is how the plant is processed for consumption.
As growers decide to make their own hash oil at home out of their plants, the fire department will be very busy.
It might be easier to stop that from occurring by not allowing the plant growing.


2 people like this
Posted by Engr
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 4, 2016 at 1:02 pm

I'd like the city council to spend more effort on getting fiber Internet to our houses than waste time on this silliness. We're the center of tech and still have this pathetic service? Where's the council on this real issue?


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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