Guadalupe could be the next Santa Barbara County city to allow the sale of recreational and medicinal cannabis, a move city staff say could help the city overcome its long-standing financial woes.
At a meeting on May 18, the Guadalupe City Council considered a draft ordinance that would repeal the city’s current prohibitions of all cannabis use in the city and add a new chapter to its municipal code outlining regulations for allowed commercial cannabis businesses. But unlike most other city cannabis ordinances on the Central Coast, Guadalupe’s proposed ordinance lacks finer details, like information regarding the number of cannabis retail permits allowed and the permit review criteria that will be used to approve applications.
That, according to City Attorney Philip Sinco, is the result of a rule that temporarily exempts local jurisdictions from the costly California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review process while passing marijuana ordinances.
“I think that the short story is that this ordinance is being adopted now to take advantage of cost savings associated with not having to do a CEQA review,” Sinco said.
Under state law, cannabis ordinances that are passed by local jurisdictions before July 1 of this year are exempt from CEQA review. That deadline was already extended from July 1, 2019 to 2021, and although Sinco said many legal experts expect the deadline to be extended again, Guadalupe doesn’t want to take any chances.
City staff had just started researching the commercial cannabis industry in March when Sinco said a recently hired cannabis consultant, Hinderliter, de Llamas & Associates, pointed out the looming exemption deadline. The price of a CEQA review can run into five figures, a price that Sinco said would kind of cancel out the potential tax revenue generation benefits of commercial cannabis, one of the key reasons Guadalupe is even considering the prospect.
Now Sinco said the city is pushing to get its general ordinance passed before July, then city staff will spend more time researching specific procedure guidelines and permit review criteria. Those details will be presented in the form of a single resolution for City Council to consider and adopt at a later date.
Still, at the May 18 meeting, council members and city staff suggested details they’d like to include in the future, including limits to the number of retail permits allowed in the city and a continued prohibition of cannabis cultivation, which Sinco said requires a lot of land and often causes odor issues. The city could, however, allow cannabis processing, the drying out and packaging of marijuana after it’s harvested.
Several community members shared their concerns about the commercial cannabis industry at the meeting, including potential physical and mental health risks to marijuana users and a possible spike in crime associated with dispensaries.
Shirley Boydstun said that while many of Guadalupe’s attempts to generate revenue have helped the city’s economy in some ways, they’ve also created more costs for infrastructure maintenance and policing. She wondered if out-of-towners would be attracted to Guadalupe because of the dispensaries and, if not, whether they would truly generate enough to improve the city’s financial standing.
City Council was scheduled to discuss and vote on the cannabis ordinance at its May 25 meeting, after the Sun’s press time.