The use of nonmedical or recreational marijuana was legalized in the November 2016 election through the passage of Proposition 64, otherwise known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA). The Act authorized the use of nonmedical marijuana by persons 21 years or older and the personal cultivation of up to six marijuana plants per household. As a result of this ballot measure, the Town of Truckee will be embarking on a public outreach process to discuss how the community wishes to address regulating cannabis usage in the town.
Because the possession of marijuana is now legal, this new law has many implications for our community and raises a number of questions that the Town will be looking to answer. Do we want to allow retail dispensaries in the town of Truckee? If so, where should they be located and what should they look and feel like? Do we want to impose a local tax on the sale of medical and nonmedical marijuana? If so, how much should it be and what could those revenues be used to fund? Town staff will be asking the community these and other questions during a series of upcoming workshops which start in early February. The community input will be used by the Town Council when weighing the appropriate direction for our community.
What is the current state of cannabis regulations?
California voters approved Proposition 215 (Compassionate Use Act) in 1996. The primary purpose of the Compassionate Use Act was to “ensure that seriously ill Californians have the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes”. In other words, California voters authorized the use of medical marijuana over 20 years ago in an effort to provide alternative medicine for qualifying patients. Subsequent legislation established a voluntary program for identification cards to be issued by counties for qualified patients and primary caregivers, and provided criminal immunity to qualified patients and primary caregivers for certain activities involving medical marijuana.
In fall 2015, the State legislation implemented several bills which further addressed the regulation of medical marijuana. Collectively, this legislation was known as the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA). This legislation established a regulatory framework for the state’s multi-billion dollar medical marijuana industry:
AB 266— Established new Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation.
- Created licensing of dispensaries, deliveries, distributors, and transport-17 different license types
- Allowed “dual” licensing process for local jurisdictional control
AB 243— Placed Department of Food and Agriculture in charge of licensing and regulation of indoor/outdoor cultivation.
SB 643— Set requirements for physician recommendations; additional requirements for licensing.
These bills fundamentally changed the way in which medical marijuana is regulated within the State. The bills cumulatively regulate medical marijuana dispensaries, deliveries, and cultivation. The bills establish a two-tier system where the State licenses such uses, but first the applicant must obtain all necessary approvals from the local jurisdiction. Local jurisdictions have the right to allow or prohibit such uses, consistent with the MCRSA and the concept of local authority to regulate land use.
Nonmedical (or Recreational) Marijuana
With passage of Proposition 64 by California voters, the use of nonmedical marijuana by persons 21 years or older and the personal cultivation of up to six marijuana plants per household is now legal. You are now allowed to smoke, vape or ingest marijuana or marijuana products. You are also allowed to process, posses, transport, purchase or give away up to 28.5 grams of marijuana or 8 grams of concentrated marijuana. However, you cannot smoke in public, unless the Town decides to permit specific places which would allow public smoking.
The changes brought by the AUMA mean the Town will need to modify its framework for zoning regulations, permitting, taxation and enforcement. The Truckee community will be asked to weigh in on issues relating to retail marijuana storefronts, indoor and outdoor cultivation, delivery services, collection of taxes on medical and nonmedical marijuana, processing and harvesting facilities, and a myriad of other issues which could have implications for our town.
The federal government has not legalized the use of either medical or nonmedical marijuana. However, to date, the Department of Justice has focused their efforts in the following ways:
- Preventing distribution of marijuana to minors
- Preventing violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana
- Preventing drugged driving
- Preventing the growing of marijuana on public landsPreventing marijuana possession or use on federal property
In other words, if it is legal in the state, the Department of Justice will not enforce against its use. This approach was first established by the Obama administration in 2013. It remains to be seen if the Trump administration will continue the approach.
What is the Town of Truckee’s current approach on cannabis regulations?
While medical marijuana has been legal since the mid-90’s, the Town of Truckee has not allowed the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries within town boundaries. The following is a summary of Town actions taken with regard to the regulation of medical marijuana:
June 2005— Town Council adopted an interim ordinance prohibiting marijuana dispensaries.
- A series of workshops were held and public input was taken
- The ordinance expired in April 2006; no new regulations were adopted
January 2008— Community Development Director determined that dispensaries are not a “similar use” to any use in the Development Code and are therefore not allowed.
November 2015— Town Council maintained current Town practice of prohibiting dispensaries.
- Council also discussed medical marijuana delivery services and cultivation practices and determined that delivery services are prohibited and that due to Truckee’s climatic conditions, cultivation did not appear to be an emerging issue.
- Council requested that Town staff develop a community engagement process to revisit all marijuana-related issues once the status of recreational use is known.
The Town has also not taken any formal action regarding medical marijuana delivery services. Because they are delivery services, they are not regulated under the Town’s land use regulations. However, with the legalization of nonmedical marijuana, delivery services will be included in the upcoming community discussions.
As I mentioned above, the Town will be initiating a community dialogue in early February to begin wading our way through the range of issues associated with the legalization of marijuana. Where we head with this discussion is largely up to you. Our Town Council has committed to hosting a total of four workshops to focus on different aspects of cannabis regulations. The workshop dates are as follows:
- Thursday, February 9th
- Thursday, March 9th
- Thursday April 13th
- Thursday, May 11th
Each workshop will be held at Town Hall and will start at 6pm. Once the workshops are wrapped up, Town staff will be working with the Planning Commission and Town Council—all during public hearings—to craft regulations addressing the legalization of marijuana.
How can you be involved?
Attend one or all four of the upcoming workshops to learn more about where the discussion is headed and to let the Town Council know your thoughts on cannabis regulations.
The Town has prepared an online survey which seeks your input on cannabis regulations. Please take a few moments to let us know your thoughts on these important issues. The results of this survey will be published shortly after the first February workshop and will be used to inform the Town Council on our community’s opinions on cannabis regulations.
The Town has a website on all things cannabis. We will be working to keep this up-to-date as we progress through our discussions on cannabis regulations.
If you have questions, please reach out to Town staff. We have established an email address solely for the purpose of asking questions.
The Town of Truckee is committed to a broad community dialogue on cannabis. This is a real opportunity for public involvement to guide the Town’s policies and regulations on this topic. Because we are expecting a diversity of opinions, it is extra important that participants are well informed on the issues, remain respectful of others’ opinions and approach the dialogue with an open mind. We are excited to hear your thoughts and opinions on this important issue and are committed to getting to the right answers for our community.