The Capitola City Council unanimously passes a ban on commercial cultivation of medical marijuana
Capitola is not big a place—the city covers less than 2 square miles and is home to fewer than 10,000 people living in very close proximity to each other. This was the bottom line when the Capitola City Council unanimously passed an “Urgency Ordinance” banning the commercial cultivation of medical marijuana on Thursday evening, Jan. 9.
“We’ve struggled here trying to find locations for dog parks and skate parks without getting public opposition, and this is just another instance that falls into that realm,” said Councilmember Ed Bottorff. “It’s just too small of an industrial area.”
Councilmember Dennis Norton went on to say, “This city is not in a position to be a pioneer in this field. As the evolution of this industry comes around and we feel more secure, it will maybe happen in the future. But at this time, we’re not ready to take on something of this magnitude.”
Because of its status as an Urgency Ordinance, the decision required at least four-fifths of the councils’ vote and went into effect immediately. Marijuana prescription carriers, as well as their primary caregivers, will still be able to grow up to 50-square-foot gardens, exclusively indoor, within city limits—just half of the space that the state law allows for personal medical gardens.
The issue was called to vote following a permit application submitted on Dec. 16 by a Capitola resident who wanted to develop a warehouse in the city’s Industrial Park zoning district along Kennedy Lane for the purpose of commercial marijuana cultivation and processing. The city deemed the proposal a potential public nuisance, particularly due to the warehouse’s proximity to a mobile home park called Cabrillo Home Estates, which hosts more than 60 families.
One resident of the mobile home park addressed the council, asking them to not only pass the ordinance, but to also shut down the medical marijuana testing lab, Santa Cruz Labs, that shares the lot with the warehouse in question.
“Get that lab out of there,” he said. “It brings the element [of marijuana] to the kids.”
A small showing of community members attended to voice their opinions on the matter. One man from Gilroy, named Ron Kirkish, came to the meeting to support a vote on the ban. At the podium, Kirkish reflected on local murders from recent years and associated them with fiendish drug addicts and a countywide tolerance for their behavior.
Capitola resident Bryan Nicholas, who has a medical marijuana prescription, was the only person to challenge the ordinance.
“The opposition”—referring to Kirkish—“was comparing mental health issues with medical marijuana and I don’t think that’s accurate at all,” he tells Good Times.
He says the ban hinders local commerce for an industry that has been voted on and legalized by the state, reduces job opportunities, and could be problematic for patients who can’t transport themselves easily to other parts of the county.
“It’s not fair to them,” he says.
He also believes the people involved in the medical marijuana industry, on the whole, have the community’s best interests in mind and that Santa Cruz Labs is providing an important service by making sure medical marijuana is safe for use.
Violators of Capitola’s new ordinance will face misdemeanor charges, six months in jail, and fines of $1,000 per day while out of compliance.
“I’m a supporter [of medical marijuana] because it’s the law, because of the Compassionate Care Act,” says Capitola Mayor Sam Storey. “[But] this [law] preserves individuals’ ability to grow for their own use here.”
Councilmember Michael Termini sounded conflicted over his own views on medical marijuana, which he believes is an important medical resource for sick people, but he firmly supported the decision to ban commercial cultivation in the city.
“This is a huge subject, and we could sit up here and pontificate all night,” he said. “I have a strong personal bias [for] legal, medical marijuana—I think it’s important; I think it’s significant, and … I’ve seen the beneficial results of it. And this is a place where councilmembers really test their mettle because we’re not here to impose our personal views on the whole City of Capitola. We’re here to shepherd our city. We’re here to be considerate and careful. And I do not want to demonize marijuana to a point where the lab is part of this, because it shouldn’t be. But I’m going to vote in favor of this ordinance because I believe it’s the wrong place and we are just too small of a community. And there are places very close to us where dispensaries and medical marijuana grows can take place, so it’s not like we’re depriving the community of anything. We just don’t have the open space to let this happen effectively without affecting neighbors.”