Truckee councilors to address future of town’s marijuana policy | SierraSun.com

Truckee councilors to address future of town’s marijuana policy

After months of seeking input and hosting workshops, the town of Truckee is getting ready to make some big decisions on the future of recreational marijuana.

Truckee Town Council is expected to provide staff with direction on the future of the town's cannabis policy at its upcoming meeting on Aug. 22 at 6 p.m. in Town Hall.

"At this point, we are hoping the council will give us some direction on where they want us to go with regulations." said Truckee Community Development Senior Planner Jenna Gatto.

"Either regulations that would prohibit cannabis uses in the town or regulations that would create a framework for any number of different uses," she said. "It could be just allowing dispensaries all the way to allowing commercial cultivation, processing facilities, pot lounges, etcetera, so that's really the next step for us."

The council meeting is expected to focus primarily on cannabis regulation, and is likely to be the first of multiple meetings in which town staff seek direction from council on how to draw up local regulations.

California voters approved Proposition 64 last fall, which legalizes the use of recreational marijuana by adults age 21 and up, and allows for the sale of cannabis and cannabis-derived products in local jurisdictions that choose to allow dispensaries to operate.

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While state law now allows adults to possess and use cannabis products in their homes, specific regulations regarding where they can purchase and grow it have been left to local governments to decide. The proposition also set a goal of Jan. 1 for state and local governments to put regulations into place.

One of the bigger decisions facing the town, which currently has no legal medical marijuana dispensaries within its boundaries, is whether to allow recreational dispensaries and related businesses, such as cultivation and processing facilities.

Gatto said that if the council does decide to allow recreational cannabis businesses, there would need to be a permitting system in place. The town currently does not have a permit system for any businesses in place.

"Primarily, what would need to happen is we would need to create regulations and policies related to cannabis, so what zone districts is it allowed in? What do the uses look like? What types of permits are needed? What restrictions are in place?" Gatto said.

Another decision that needs to be made is what restrictions should be in place for residents who choose to grow their own plants, which is now legal under state law.

"Prop. 64 authorizes people to have personal grows, so up to six plants, either inside their house or in an accessory structure like a greenhouse or shed but not outside," she said. "So we will, depending on which way we go with our regulations, likely need to put some in place that would address personal outdoor cultivation, whether or not we would want to regulate that or not."

Town Manager Jeff Loux said that the growing season in Truckee also makes it unique compared to other places in California, since for half the year it's too cold to grow outdoors.

"Climate and growing season are factors here that you wouldn't have in the desert or in the central valley, but you know in terms of outdoor growing it's going to be a different perspective then you would have in Monterey County," he said.

Town staff has also heard some concerns from members of the community who may not have an issue with people ingesting the drug, but also don't necessarily want Truckee to become a destination for marijuana.

"Becoming a tourist destination for cannabis use is one of the concerns that we're hearing, certainly in light of some of the restrictions that are in place nearby … We don't want neon giant marijuana leaves in store windows, things like that if we were to say 'yes' to cannabis," Gatto said.

Another concern is the limited amount of industrial space in the town.

"One of the concerns that we have internally is recognizing that we largely envision growing happening indoors is the potential for our manufacturing and light industrial spaces to be used solely for marijuana cultivation rather than for auto repair and contractor yards, and things like that that kind of are part of Truckee's DNA," Gatto said.

"We already have a shortage of those types of spaces in town, especially affordable spaces. There is concern that if this is allowed, and we've seen this in places like Reno, they get priced out simply because they can't compete with what cannabis growers are able to pay for rent."

Regardless of what direction council gives staff at the Aug. 22 meeting, Gatto and Loux both said that town staff will still need time to work with the community, the planning commission, and with council again before anything is finalized.

"It's possible that we won't have everything dialed in by Jan. 1. We don't know if the state will have everything dialed in by Jan. 1 either, but we're certainly not trying to delay. We're working toward getting something in place in a timely fashion."

Amanda Rhoades is a news, environment and business reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at arhoades@sierrasun.com or 530-550-2653. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @akrhoades.

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