Cities take dim view of legal pot

Many have decided toflout new state law



Marijuana proponents in the state rejoiced when California voters legalized recreational pot usage in 2016. The new law gave municipalities the leeway to implement legalization within their borders, but just as they did in their opposition medicinal marijuana back in 1996, local cities are telling sellers they’ll have to hawk their wares somewhere else.

Westlake Village City Council recently passed an ordinance that says no commercial cannabis businesses will be allowed to operate within the city limits. The full legalization of marijuana, which goes into effect in 2018, also allows for cultivation on private property, but Westlake Village residents will only be allowed to grow their plants indoors.

Calabasas and Agoura Hills are also expected to oppose the establishment of recreational cannabis stores inside city limits.

Scott Wolfe, Westlake Village planning director and deputy city manager, said his city took a conservative approach to marijuana.

“The City Council’s position is: We know that because Thousand Oaks had adopted their ordinance prior to us adopting ours, they’re going to have a dispensary,” Wolfe said. “There will be others in the San Fernando Valley area, if not other cities surrounding us, and the council just felt it really wasn’t necessary for Westlake Village to have its own (dispensary) when there was more than enough opportunity around.”

One of the longtime arguments for legalization has been the tax revenue that it can bring. Indeed, since cannabis legalization took effect in 2014, Colorado has reaped more $506 million in revenue, according to VS Strategies, a pro-legalization research company based in Denver.

Once the state law goes into effect, California will likely see similar high profits generated by the taxing of marijuana. California’s independent Legislative Analyst’s office estimates that cannabis sales could generate $1 billion annually for the state.

And while state taxes on marijuana sales could reach as high as 45 percent, Wolfe said pot sales in Westlake Village, were they to be permitted, would not generate the same windfall.

“If a business were to come into the city and there were to be a sales tax or something along that line, the city would get a small portion of that sales tax, but that wasn’t a factor in the decision,” Wolfe said. “The city precluded any kind of operation of that kind of retail use within the city.”

The California law allows for state-licensed businesses to deliver cannabis to a customer’s home. Although it banned retail sales in the city, Westlake Village will still allow home deliveries.

Wolfe said between delivery options and businesses in neighboring cities, Westlake Village locals won’t be hard-pressed to find marijuana.

California residents will be allowed to grow up to six plants on private property, but the Westlake Village ordinance requires cultivation to take place indoors. However, “indoors” can mean a greenhouse, so long as it’s properly secured with locking doors and windows.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will enforce the rules on cultivation and delivery of marijuana.

But, Wolfe said, “We’re not planning on going around poking our heads over fences or anything like that.

“Our city council decided indoors was the way to go from a security aspect more than anything else. They wanted to make sure we didn’t have problems with people hopping fences into backyards (to steal from) the property,” Wolfe said.