Most people who live in Los Angeles can remember from an early age walking through Venice Beach and seeing bright green seven-leafed flowers alongside “Dr. Weed Pun”. It’s no secret that the current climate of cannabis in the United States, California specifically, is evolving out of its long-held taboo. Legalizations for medicinal, recreational and cultivation use have sprung up throughout various states in the US more and more frequently in recent years. California has been at the epicenter of this change with its recent approval of Prop 64 legalizing the regulated sale and possession of marijuana.
The booming market behind cannabis in a youthful progressive city like Los Angeles has naturally resulted in an influx of dispensaries and head shops. However, on June 21 the City of South Pasadena quietly passed an ordinance prohibiting “the establishment or operation of marijuana businesses” and dispensaries within the limits of the City. Ordinance No. 2314, a unanimous declaration by the City, also completely prohibits outdoor cultivation of marijuana within the City limits and authorizes the City to “reasonably regulate” cultivation within a private residence. It is included in the ordinance that the City Council does not want to hinder qualified patients from cultivation, but rather to avoid the “negative secondary impacts that inevitably accompany the proliferation of outdoor marijuana cultivation”. The legislation goes on to cite increased crime at grow sites and “neighborhood concerns regarding odors” as potential negative effects. The ordinance stems from the wording of Prop 64, which grants cities the option to prohibit all commercial activity and regulate cultivation.
The ordinance was openly discussed at two City Council meetings in June. On June 7th, South Pasadena City Director of Planning and Building David Watkins opened the discussion by introducing the ordinance and acknowledging both state and federal laws regarding cannabis. Mayor Pro Tem Richard Schneider initiated the following discussion of whether or not the ordinance was too broad in its banning of commercial weed delivery in South Pasadena. Schneider requested the issue be further researched and wished for the City to consult with SPPD concerning marijuana delivery. There was little to no discussion pertaining to the meat and potatoes of the bill: the prohibition of marijuana businesses and personal cultivation. The ordinance was passed at the following City Council meeting on June 21.
A desire to maintain the mom ‘n pop white picket fence vibe of South Pasadena is understandable. However, there’s a line that can be crossed while doing this. Where does preserving innocence diminish a significant change in culture? The issue isn’t that the City is slightly inconveniencing the ample SPHS students and parents who smoke weed, it’s that they’re choosing to restrict access to a recreational activity that is very established in South Pasadena’s culture. Whether the City Council likes it or not, marijuana use is a very popular hobby that thousands of residents take part in. Choosing to diminish this hints at a disconnect between old and new South Pasadena; the City leadership and the millennial residents. A dispensary would look understandably out of place next to Fair Oaks Pharmacy, but is it that much worse than another massage parlor? The revenue for the city (Colorado surpassed $200 million in tax revenue in 2016) and destigmatization of the plant would bring so much more value than the sweet smell of warm apple pie on the windowsill.
“Perhaps the decision reflects the views of an older and more conservative generation of South Pasadenans, but I think if you were to ask most of the city’s younger residents, even some parents, they would agree that banning the commercial sale of marijuana does more harm than good,” longtime resident Jake Levy said. “I think the ban is a mistake, simple as that. Why not allow something with the potential to generate so much tax revenue for the city and state?”
Alhambra, La Canada and San Marino all have similar laws concerning the establishment of commercial and medical cannabis businesses.