No Recreational Pot in Malibu on Jan. 1

Marijuana Plants

City Council is still in the weeds over proposed additions to its citywide marijuana ordinance. 

Avoiding the rush to put an ordinance on the books by the time recreational cannabis is legalized in California on Jan. 1, council put pot on the back burner until March.

The idea to grant licenses to deliver cannabis in Malibu was initially addressed in February 2016, but since then seemed to have gone up in smoke—until it appeared on City Council’s Dec. 11 agenda, just in time for the Jan. 1 statewide legalization of recreational marijuana use. At that meeting, a couple dozen proponents of marijuana delivery came to show support for a proposed change that would have allowed the practice in town. Nine days later, city council chambers were nearly empty as council got down to the nuts and bolts of the decision—eventually determining they needed to gather more information before going forward with proposed changes.

“Why do we have to rush? This retail and delivery is going to be a big deal next year in LA—and elsewhere in California,” Planning Commissioner John Mazza told council during public comments at the Wednesday, Dec. 20 meeting. “Malibu’s a small city, so I think we have the luxury of waiting and finding out how it works out and what specific issues will be presented to Malibu.”

As recreational marijuana sales become legal statewide next month, many in Malibu felt a need to rush through changes to regulate the non-medicinal use in town–including Council Member Laura Rosenthal, a longtime proponent of medicinal marijuana.

“I am very much in support of delivery, because I think it does help the people that are patients,” Roesnthal said, later adding, “I’m reminded a little bit of ‘Reefer Madness’ … and I think that’s not what they found in other states, and as the other states have been doing it, I think that it’s here to stay, and I don’t think that we should be banning it.”

Other council members brought up issues states like Oregon and Colorado have faced in implementing recreational use–saying California would most likely see difficulties as marijuana becomes legal statewide.

“What I see in the state of California is chaos,” Council Member Lou La Monte said. “They don’t know what to do at all.”

One drawback to waiting it out was the possibility that Malibu could miss out on grants provided by the State of California.

“In accordance with [the new law], cities that allow commercial cultivation, personal outdoor cultivation and retail sales of cannabis or cannabis products are eligible to receive state grant monies funded through the new state excise taxes that take effect on Jan. 1, 2018,” according to the city’s prepared report regarding the new cannabis laws. “These funds could be used by local governments for law enforcement, fire protection or other local programs … but there is no assurance that grant funds will be available.”

Council also discussed how taxes from the sale of marijuana could be used for public benefit, with the mayor suggesting undergrounding electrical wires as a potential project–although holding off until March, City Attorney Christi Hogin said, could mean the city was “potentially missing out on is the eligibility to apply for grants” associated with the new law.

In the end, council voted, 3-2, to hold off on the final decision.

“I’d like to go on record saying that’s something we need to figure out because there’s a great need in our community,” Mayor Skylar Peak said, after asking city staff to come forward with wording on how to license recreational sale, delivery and cultivation in Malibu.