Santa Monica Lookout
|Santa Monica Prepares for Possible Pot Shops||
| By Jonathan Friedman
December 16, 2016 -- There is nowhere to go (legally) in Santa Monica to buy marijuana--whether it be for medical or recreational use. But that could change soon following California voters' passage last month of Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana.
Santa Monica, which is still without a medical marijuana dispensary despite their prevalence in Los Angeles County, is preparing for the new reality. A City Council study session has been scheduled for February 28.
A City notice says a variety of topics will be discussed at the workshop, including what "type of commercial cannabis activities" the council might allow and how marijuana businesses would be permitted in Santa Monica.
The notice specified the City would not establish a timeline for crafting local marijuana regulations until after the workshop.
While the City might be able to take a casual approach, the State is on a tight schedule.
Proposition 64 requires the State to begin issuing marijuana business licenses by January 1, 2018. Sacramento officials have a lot to sort out, including how the product will be sold and perhaps most importantly--how it will be taxed.
For now the rules are somewhat confusing.
A person who is at least 21 can possess as much as an ounce of marijuana (maximum of eight grams for edible varieties) and grow as many as six plants at home.
You can’t just light a joint in a local park (it's illegal to smoke in Santa Monica parks anyhow), but you can do it at home.
While you can possess marijuana, there is nowhere to (legally) buy it without a medical card, and nobody can (legally) sell it for non-medical use. But it can be given to a person as a gift.
Santa Monica is under no obligation to open marijuana shops in the city.
Since Proposition 64 passed locally with nearly 75 percent approval (compared to 57 percent statewide), it is clear the vast majority of Santa Monica voters want the drug legalized.
Whether they want that legalized availability localized is another matter.
Despite an international reputation as a progressive city, Santa Monica has been slow to include marijuana in the retail scene.
There have been moratoriums and false starts on allowing medical marijuana dispensaries as they pop up around the county with various degrees of success.
The last move by the council was in 2015 when it approved a zoning ordinance which allows up to two medical marijuana dispensaries in Santa Monica with "onsite cultivation" (“Santa Monica Moves Closer to Opening Medical Marijuana Dispensaries,” July 30, 2015).
But no permits have been approved.
While City and State officials debate and determine how best to deal with marijuana as a now legal drug, there is the other matter to consider how the federal government will approach the issue.
Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, and the nation's likely next attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is on record saying "good people don't smoke marijuana."
What Sessions might do about California and other states that have legalized the drug is unknown, but he has some advocates concerned.
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