Capitola Bans Commercial Marijuana

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As her husband was recovering from a stroke, Nancy Black decided to start baking homemade goods infused with medical marijuana to help alleviate his pain.

Black, who goes by “Granny,” founded Granny Purps, a family-run medical marijuana dispensary located in Soquel, making it subject only to Santa Cruz County regulations. Less than two miles away however, within the city limits of nearby Capitola, commercial grows and medical marijuana dispensaries like Granny Purps are now illegal as of last Thursday.

Known as chapter 9.61 of the Capitola municipal code, the new ordinance prohibits commercial cultivation but allows indoor cultivation for purely personal use if certain requirements are met.

The Capitola City Council’s unanimous decision to ban the commercial cultivation and processing of medical marijuana was created in response to a building permit application filed in December seeking to open a commercial grow in Capitola.

Commercial grows involve the process in which medicinal marijuana is cultivated, bought and sold at dispensaries.

The City Council, Capitola Chief of Police and two of the three community members who spoke at the meeting all shared concerns that the commercial growing and selling of marijuana for medicinal purposes could have negative implications.

Manuel Vieira, owner of Cabrillo Estates mobile home park, said he and his tenants were wary of a commercial grow opening near the park. City Council members noted that due to Capitola’s small size, only 1.67 square miles, new businesses of any sort can have a big impact on the whole city.

Vieira said a recent fire in his park caused by a marijuana-using tenant is an example of the dangers a nearby commercial grow could foster.

While the tenant was on other medications and believed “things were talking to him,” according to Vieira, the Cabrillo Estates community believes marijuana was responsible and put others in danger.

When Capitola city planner Katie Cattan received plans for the proposed commercial grow, she noted they showed more indoor plant lighting than is typical, causing excessive energy consumption and constituting a public nuisance.

Offensive odor, illegal sales and distribution, criminal activity, fire hazards and problems with mold, fungus and pests are also criteria that qualify the commercial grow as a public nuisance, Cattan said.

Granny, the secretary of Granny Purps, said in its four years of business, the dispensary hasn’t exhibited any of the public nuisance issues mentioned by Cattan.

Despite having security guards, security cameras and a metal detector, Granny Purps is still threatened — not by patients looking to start troubl but by the federal government, said Granny’s son-in-law and CEO of Granny Purps J.D. Black.

“It’s still federally illegal,” Black said. “We’re out here in the light, proudly selling medical marijuana to American citizens who voted for this in the state of California, but the federal government can come and take us away any day.”

Black referred to the Federal Controlled Substances Act (FCSA), which states although medical marijuana is legal under state law, marijuana remains illegal under federal jurisdiction. Under California Senate Bill 215, cities and counties are able to choose whether or not they want to allow medical marijuana facilities within their limits.

In response to the concerns of Capitola residents about the dangers of dispensaries, Granny emphasized Granny Purps’ year-round contributions to the community. She said Granny Purps provides medical marijuana to people who depend on it and asissts the community as a whole, with participation in beach cleanups and canned food drives.

“There’s too much negative stuff out there for us and our industry and I understand — there are a lot of people that aren’t doing it right,” Black said. “I want to make sure people know that we give back. We’ve proven that we are a positive influence in this community.”

Capitola’s City Council members said while they support medical marijuana in general, Capitola is just too small to support a dispensary or commercial grow without negative consequences.

Dispensaries nearby Capitola include Capitola Healing Association, Herbal Cruz and Granny Purps, which are all less than three miles away.

“We are just too small a community and there are areas very close to us where dispensaries and medical marijuana growth can take place, so it’s not like we’re depriving the community of anything,” said City Council member Termini.

Black said many of the 16,000 people who purchase marijuana annually at Granny Purps have Capitola addresses, and he respects Capitola’s legal right to ban dispensaries and commercial grows from its city.

“It’s understood that they don’t want [dispensaries] in their city and it’s totally okay,” Black said. “That’s their business. But you can have them right next to their city, like we are.”