Santa Rosa shelves temporary ban on outdoor marijuana growing

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A plan to ban outdoor growing of medical marijuana in Santa Rosa went up in smoke Tuesday.

City staff abruptly kicked the ban back to a cannabis subcommittee hours before the City Council was set to vote on the 45-day moratorium.

In making their decision, officials cited the high volume of feedback they received about the proposal prior to the meeting.

“We needed more time for public input on this,” said David Guhin, the director of Planning and Economic Development.

Some cannabis business interests have said the proposal took them by surprise. One alleged in a news report Monday that it had come “out of left field.”

Audience members who made the effort to attend the meeting to oppose to the ban were pleased it didn’t go forward but annoyed at how it was pulled from the council’s agenda.

“I’m frustrated because they ask everyone to get together and then they cancel it,” said Trevor, a 37-year-old Santa Rosa resident who declined to give his last name.

The man said he’s an avid gardener and just wants to grow the six plants that he’s allowed to under state law and doesn’t want to be forced to buy medicine he can grow himself.

He said he found it odd that the city would embrace large energy-intensive indoor growing but shun small scale natural outdoor cultivation.

The city’s cannabis subcommittee has proposed outdoor growing be banned within city limits as part of the city’s comprehensive medical marijuana ordinance, which could take effect later this summer. The permitting processes the city has put in place to date are temporary.

Concerns raised by residents include complaints about odor, safety and environmental hazards connected to outdoor cultivation.

To make sure backyard growers didn’t get too invested in pot patches that might become illegal later this year, the city proposed an immediate moratorium. Such an “urgency” measure would have required five yes votes from the seven- member council.

The ban would not have prevented qualified patients from growing in greenhouses or indoors.

Guhin said the city had received a substantial amount of additional public input since the city’s staff report went public last Thursday. There was no particular issue raised that triggered the decision, and comments were from residents for and against the ban, he said.

The city now will send the issue back to the subcommittee for a full airing, probably in April, Guhin said.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 707-521-5207 or On Twitter @srcitybeat.