Commercial cannabis will be the issue when the Angels Camp City Council holds a special meeting at 6 p.m. Monday in Bret Harte High School's theater.

So many people showed up at a council meeting to address an urgency cannabis ordinance earlier this week, there was not enough room for everyone in the firehouse, where City Council meetings are usually held, said City of Angels Administrator Mary Kelly.

“I’m not sure how many people were present at the meeting this past Tuesday,” Kelly said. “We stopped counting at 55. Per the fire code we couldn’t have more than 49.”

An agenda for the meeting says city staff are advising the council to adopt an urgency moratorium ordinance concerning the cultivation, commercial and retail sale, and delivery of marijuana and related land uses, and approve an exemption from the state environmental quality act for that urgency ordinance.

A revised draft of the ordinance shared by Kelly on Thursday covers six pages and has room for her signature on a seventh page.

Prop 64

The text of the Angels Camp draft ordinance refers to Proposition 64, known as the Control, Regulate, and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which was adopted by voters statewide on Nov. 8, 2016, and took effect the next day.

Pot advocates said Prop 64 and its approval by voters legalized recreational marijuana use in the nation’s most populous state. But what that means at ground level in Calaveras County, Tuolumne County and other parts of the Mother Lode is open to broad interpretation. Municipalities are still struggling with the issue as debates for and against the lucrative crop rage.

On Oct. 24, the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors split 3-2 to direct staff to prepare strict regulatory language to be added to a draft ordinance originally intended to ban commercial cannabis cultivation.

That new law is expected to come before the county planning commission later this month.

The cannabis debate has consumed Calaveras County since the 2015 Butte Fire wiped out more than 500 homes and rendered many properties ripe for an influx of pot farmers and other green gold prospectors.

More state law

Prop 64 is now part of the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, legislation passed by state lawmakers in June 2017. The new state law has decriminalized recreational marijuana use, cultivation, and distribution. It also established a licensing program for non-medical commercial cultivation, testing, and distribution of non-medical marijuana and the manufacturing of non-medical marijuana products.

The Angels Camp draft ordinance states the cultivation of marijuana for personal or commercial use has the potential to lead to nuisances and criminal activity. It also notes that growing marijuana plants emit an odor that can be noxious and can interfere with the quiet enjoyment of neighboring properties.

“Also, marijuana cultivation can be attractive to burglars seeking to steal the plants, which can lead to violent confrontations with property owners,” the draft ordinance states. “Numerous instances of these adverse secondary effects associated with the cultivation of marijuana have been observed in Calaveras County, in which the City is incorporated.”

The draft law states it is imperative that Angels Camp’s government retains local land use control over marijuana cultivation.

And it notes that Prop 64 and the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act expressly preserve local jurisdictions’ abilities to adopt and enforce local ordinances to regulate non-medical marijuana establishments, including local zoning and land use requirements, business license requirements, as well as the ability to completely prohibit establishment or operation of one or more types of marijuana businesses.

What will happen Monday night in Angels Camp remains to be seen. The city council special meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

Bret Harte High School is on South Main Street at Murphys Grade Road.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter @GuyMcCarthy.

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