It's been two months since California voters approved the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, effectively legalizing recreational use of marijuana for those 21 years or older. While it's too soon to tell what the impacts of the AUMA will have statewide, how the Act will affect the City of Turlock's existing ban on the cultivation of cannabis will be discussed during a special City Council meeting on Tuesday.
In December 2015, the City Council unanimously approved prohibitions on the cultivation of cannabis plants for personal medical marijuana use — something that is now void following the voter-approved Proposition 64.
The Marijuana Act provides that local governments can reasonably regulate, but cannot ban the personal indoor cultivation of up to six marijuana plants per private residence. This includes cultivation in a greenhouse that is on the property of the residence but not physically part of the home, as long as it is fully enclosed, secure and not visible from a public space.
The Act also allows residents to legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana, however, it's still illegal to smoke or ingest marijuana in public.
"We still respond to calls of people smoking marijuana in public, because it's still illegal," said Turlock's Acting Police Chief Nino Amirfar.
Along with adults caught smoking in parks and other public places, the police also cite individuals who possess or are smoking marijuana under the age of 21.
It’s still illegal to smoke marijuana and operate a vehicle and all sales of marijuana — whether for medical or recreational use — is also illegal in the City of Turlock.
Adult use sales of marijuana in California will begin on Jan. 1, 2018; however, it's still expected to be banned in Turlock. A 15 percent tax will be placed on the retail price of marijuana around the state, and cultivation taxes will be excised for dispensaries as well. According to California’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, the state could collect up to $1 billion in taxes a year, which under the proposition will go toward covering costs of administrating and enforcing the measure, as well as drug research, treatment and enforcement.
Amirfar is concerned about the ramifications the AUMA will have on public safety in Turlock.
"If you look at Colorado at what they've experienced, we can expect a huge spike in medical issues, poisoning, child poisoning, overdoses...," he said.
Along with increased medical issues, Amirfar also anticipates increases in home burglaries and residential fires.
"The majority of our home invasions were drug-related rip offs. I don't see that decreasing, I think it will actually increase," he said. "We may be seeing more residential fires because of electric uses, aged systems."
Amirfar said an indoor grow operation will use one 4,000 amp light bulb, which is 10 times the amount of normal light ampage for a residence.
He also anticipates an increase in marijuana-related traffic collisions in the coming years.
"We already have enough issues with impaired driving with cellphones and such, not bringing in alcohol and drugs," he said.
The City of Turlock's special meeting/workshop on the Adult Use of Marijuana Act will be held at 5 p.m. Tuesday in the Yosemite Room at City Hall, 156 S. Broadway.