Santa Rosa Planning Commission Considers Cannabis Ordinance, Plans to Include Adult Use

On November 9, 2017, the Santa Rosa Planning Commission held a public hearing concerning the city’s pending comprehensive medical cannabis ordinance. The most significant topics discussed were the location restrictions affecting various cannabis activities, and whether the ordinance should be modified to include adult use (recreational) cannabis as a permitted activity.

What Does the Proposed Ordinance Do?

The main effect of the proposed ordinance is to establish allowed land uses and permitting requirements for various types of commercial cannabis activity.

Under the ordinance, cannabis dispensaries would be allowed in certain commercial and industrial zoning districts with either a Minor Conditional Use Permit (not requiring a public hearing) or a Major Conditional Use Permit (requiring a public hearing). Dispensaries, however, would not be allowed within 600 feet of a school or within 1,000 feet of each other. These restrictions were a significant topic of discussion at the hearing, with various viewpoints expressed by the commission and the public. Three of the five commissioners present expressed desire to reduce the minimum distance between dispensaries to 600 feet; all were in favor of expanding the setback from schools to 1,000 feet.

The proposed ordinance allows indoor and mixed-light cultivation, cannabis manufacturing, and cannabis distribution facilities in certain industrial zoning districts, subject to permitting requirements (see table). Cannabis testing laboratories would be allowed in certain industrial and commercial zones as well.

More detailed background information about the ordinance is available here (staff presentation) and here (staff report). For specific guidance on how the ordinance would apply to any particular circumstance, contact your legal counsel.

What about Adult Use?

Many public members spoke out in favor of including recreational cannabis in the ordinance, and the Planning Commission was receptive. In fact, each commissioner agreed that handling recreational and medical cannabis simultaneously, now, is a far more efficient approach than revisiting the issue at a later date, which would unnecessarily burden government and businesses all over again. City staff provided an alternative version of the ordinance to reflect this approach.

What Next?

The Planning Commission approved a resolution recommending that the city council adopt the proposed ordinance, subject to the modifications discussed at the hearing, including those noted above.

The city Council is expected to consider the ordinance at its December 12 meeting. The public can submit comments and proposed changes, either in advance of the meeting (in writing) or during the council’s deliberations (in person).

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