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.

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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.

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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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Palo Alto moves ahead with ban on outdoor pot growth

New ordinance anticipates possible passage of Prop. 64

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Oct 25, 2016, 8:45 am

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.”

Comments

Enviroresidentialist
Greenmeadow
on Oct 25, 2016 at 9:37 am
Enviroresidentialist, Greenmeadow
on Oct 25, 2016 at 9:37 am
46 people like this

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.


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

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.


Heidi
Stanford
on Oct 25, 2016 at 11:31 am
Heidi , Stanford
on Oct 25, 2016 at 11:31 am
18 people like this

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...


indoors
Professorville
on Oct 25, 2016 at 12:10 pm
indoors, Professorville
on Oct 25, 2016 at 12:10 pm
37 people like this

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


No Not Really
College Terrace
on Oct 25, 2016 at 1:12 pm
No Not Really, College Terrace
on Oct 25, 2016 at 1:12 pm
16 people like this

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.


Jerry Garcia
College Terrace
on Oct 25, 2016 at 1:17 pm
Jerry Garcia, College Terrace
on Oct 25, 2016 at 1:17 pm
36 people like this

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!


sve
Registered user
Greenmeadow
on Oct 25, 2016 at 1:34 pm
sve, Greenmeadow
Registered user
on Oct 25, 2016 at 1:34 pm
27 people like this

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.


Mike
Southgate
on Oct 25, 2016 at 2:13 pm
Mike, Southgate
on Oct 25, 2016 at 2:13 pm
30 people like this

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


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

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.


Indendent
Registered user
Midtown
on Oct 25, 2016 at 2:18 pm
Indendent, Midtown
Registered user
on Oct 25, 2016 at 2:18 pm
41 people like this

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!


Bob
Palo Verde
on Oct 25, 2016 at 4:06 pm
Bob, Palo Verde
on Oct 25, 2016 at 4:06 pm
27 people like this

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?


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

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


curious
Green Acres
on Oct 25, 2016 at 6:03 pm
curious, Green Acres
on Oct 25, 2016 at 6:03 pm
5 people like this

Has anyone read the actual full text of Prop 64?

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


Susan
Professorville
on Oct 25, 2016 at 8:01 pm
Susan, Professorville
on Oct 25, 2016 at 8:01 pm
24 people like this

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.


Brian Guth-Pasta
Midtown
on Oct 25, 2016 at 11:27 pm
Brian Guth-Pasta, Midtown
on Oct 25, 2016 at 11:27 pm
6 people like this

@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.


No Not Really
College Terrace
on Oct 26, 2016 at 9:31 am
No Not Really , College Terrace
on Oct 26, 2016 at 9:31 am
6 people like this

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.


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

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.


Facinating
Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 26, 2016 at 10:52 am
Facinating, Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 26, 2016 at 10:52 am
13 people like this

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.


Penny
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 26, 2016 at 4:01 pm
Penny, Old Palo Alto
on Oct 26, 2016 at 4:01 pm
13 people like this

Good to see the city working on important issues.

/sarcasm


Marc
Midtown
on Oct 27, 2016 at 9:46 am
Marc, Midtown
on Oct 27, 2016 at 9:46 am
8 people like this

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

:^)

/marc


cvvhrn
Midtown
on Oct 27, 2016 at 11:15 am
cvvhrn, Midtown
on Oct 27, 2016 at 11:15 am
8 people like this

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.


No really
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 27, 2016 at 11:48 am
No really, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 27, 2016 at 11:48 am
Like this comment

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.


John
Midtown
on Oct 27, 2016 at 3:12 pm
John, Midtown
on Oct 27, 2016 at 3:12 pm
6 people like this

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.


Another Tom
Downtown North
on Oct 27, 2016 at 5:53 pm
Another Tom, Downtown North
on Oct 27, 2016 at 5:53 pm
9 people like this

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....


Butch Cassidy
Midtown
on Oct 28, 2016 at 8:46 am
Butch Cassidy, Midtown
on Oct 28, 2016 at 8:46 am
8 people like this

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 !


Enviroresidentialist
Greenmeadow
on Oct 28, 2016 at 10:43 am
Enviroresidentialist, Greenmeadow
on Oct 28, 2016 at 10:43 am
2 people like this

@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.


Change is tough for some
Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 28, 2016 at 11:29 am
Change is tough for some, Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 28, 2016 at 11:29 am
10 people like this

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 ;)


sve
Registered user
Greenmeadow
on Oct 29, 2016 at 11:42 am
sve, Greenmeadow
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2016 at 11:42 am
6 people like this

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.


curious
Green Acres
on Oct 29, 2016 at 12:19 pm
curious, Green Acres
on Oct 29, 2016 at 12:19 pm
Like this comment

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


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

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.


Engr
Fairmeadow
on Nov 4, 2016 at 1:02 pm
Engr, Fairmeadow
on Nov 4, 2016 at 1:02 pm
2 people like this

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?


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