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Marijuana: Grass Valley Planning Commission recommends a sunset ordinance on draft ban

During a meeting Tuesday, the Grass Valley Planning Commission voted 4-1 to move forward with a ban on marijuana cultivation, distribution and dispensaries in town, but recommended the city council adopt a sunset ordinance that would discontinue the ban on Jan. 31, 2017.

Commissioner Jacqueline Hawkins abstained from voting.

The city code currently prohibits all dispensaries.



“Our intention for making this recommendation is to make sure everyone has enough time to review this,” said Commissioner Yolanda Cookson.

“The interesting thing is without enacting a local regulation, the state could issue a license for any person who is not a primary care patient or a qualified caregiver,” said Grass Valley Police Lt. Alex Gammelgard.




The plan is to hold ad-hoc subcommittee meetings concurrently with local stakeholders while the city moves forward with the ban, Gammelgard added.

The ad-hoc subcommittee, headed by Vice Mayor Howard Levine and Councilmember Jan Arbuckle, will hold its first meeting at 8 a.m. on Jan. 28 at the Hullender Room.

Most audience members spoke heatedly against the ban.

Mary-Alice Ritti, a resident of Grass Valley, said she is a supporter of medical and recreational marijuana.

“You open the newspaper and you read about money going down the hill…this is an area that grows marijuana,” said Ritti. “I would like to see it (marijuana) move above the ground and move beyond a criminal act.”

Lloyd Hopkins, another Grass Valley resident, said a complete ban in town would force people to acquire medical marijuana through illegal means.

“I know people who need marijuana for medical uses, and they should not be treated as criminals,” said Hopkins. “I really urge you not to take any actions.”

The measure applies citywide. Violation of the ordinance will result in “enforcement remedies” such as a restraining order, a preliminary or permanent injunction.

The draft ordinance will go before the city council for a first reading during its first meeting in February. If the city council passes a second reading of the measure, the ban will become effective 30 days after its adoption.

In October, Gov. Jerry Brown created a statewide licensing system for medicinal cannabis cultivation and commercial activities by signing three bills into law. What has came to be known as the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act requires all municipalities to take regulation action before March 1.

The Grass Valley City Council voted 5-0 to enact a full ban as a placeholder during a meeting on Dec. 8. But city officials have repeatedly reassured residents that the ban is an emergency resolution and that the city will revisit the ordinance in the future.

A bill created by Assemblyman Jim Wood with the intention of removing the March deadline is set for a hearing on Wednesday at the state Senate Health Committee.

In other business on Tuesday, commissioners also approved a proposal by representatives of Hospitality House to add 15 more beds permanently to its emergency shelter.

The shelter had capacity to provide lodging for 54 people. During a special city council meeting in December, the council unanimously approved a temporary expansion to accommodate more people in need when the temperature dips below 40 degrees in wet and dry conditions.

The decision made by the Planning Commission on Tuesday will allow Hospitality House to provide lodging for 15 more people without the weather criteria.

To contact Staff Writer Teresa Yinmeng Liu, please call 530-477-4236, or email tliu@theunion.com


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