Lighting up beach fires in Carmel escaped a total ban recently, but don’t expect to light up, or consume, any weed around those fires when Proposition 64 goes into effect a year from now. City leaders are poised to ban sales and impose tight restrictions on recreational marijuana as soon as possible, despite California voters’ support for legalization.
More than 56 percent of Carmel voters said yes to legalizing pot during the Nov. 8 election, but both the city Planning Commission and City Council are scheduled to vote on whether to ban the processing, manufacture, distribution and sale of recreational marijuana – similar to ordinances passed in 2015 limiting medicinal pot within the city’s borders.
Smoking and consuming marijuana in public would also be banned, per the draft ordinance headed to the Planning Commission. Individuals would be allowed to grow up to six plants indoors for personal use, with restrictions.
Carmel city staff put a “high priority” on passing the proposed ordinances well in advance of Prop. 64 going into effect, according to Marc Wiener, Carmel’s community planning and building director. The issue was scheduled for the first Planning Commission meeting of the year on Jan. 11, after the Weekly went to press, and could go to City Council as early as Feb. 7.
Ryan Munevar, chair of Monterey County’s pro-marijuana group NORML, plans on speaking out against the ordinances, but he expects about the same response he got when he argued against medicinal pot limits.
“I think speaking to them now will be just as futile as it was back in 2015,” Munevar says. “They have a city of a little over 1-square mile, they have a population of 4,000 people, at the most, and although they would make a considerable amount of money from the taxation of cannabis in the city, they are rich enough that it’s highly unlikely they will. I doubt they will acquiesce to the will of the people.”
The focus of the planning commissioners and council members in tightly restricting medicinal marijuana came down to preserving the city’s character, “and the type of businesses we want to attract,” Wiener says.
The staff report to the Planning Commission does outline an alternative to a complete ban, allowing the sale and cultivation of recreational marijuana in order to take advantage of potential tax revenue. (All six cannabis tax measures in different Monterey County jurisdictions passed Nov. 8.)
And even if the council bans sales in the coming weeks, Wiener adds, “It could be reconsidered in the future.”