In a move that has surprised some observers, the conservative city council of Sacramento, California has just become the largest U.S. city to approve the cultivation of medical marijuana indoors. The Sacramento City Council approved an ordinance on Tuesday that would allow cannabis to be grown inside buildings up to 22,000 square feet, about as big as four and a half NBA courts.
The buildings must be zoned for agriculture or for commercial use and cannot be near a park or school. City leaders are still working to determine whether the buildings should be kept a minimum of 600 feet or 1,000 feet away.
California’s medical marijuana industry praised the passage of the ordinance. California Cannabis Industry Association Executive Director Nate Bradley said it moves cannabis cultivation one step closer to being treated no differently from other agricultural products in the state.
“It’s phenomenal that a conservative town like Sacramento chose to recognize this industry instead of pretending that it’s not there like a lot of other local governments do,” Bradley said.
The city will tax cultivators at 4 percent and expect to generate $1 million in new revenue.
But the ordinance is also raising concerns from some Sacramento officials that massive indoor cultivation will tarnish the image of the city.
Potential growers will need to apply for a permit through the city in order to cultivate, but the number of permits the city will issue is still being considered by the council.
“The fear of doing too many is, I guess, being a medical marijuana cultivation hub,” Sacramento Finance Director Brad Wasson said. “I’m not sure that that’s the image that we want to have in Sacramento.”
It’s a concern shared by District Six Councilman Eric Guerra, whose southeast Sacramento district is expected to see 80 percent of the cultivation.
“We’re looking at this area as a new place for advanced manufacturing,” Guerra said. “We want to develop a research park and we can’t allow a new industry like cannabis cultivation to jeopardize those major efforts.”
In response, cannabis growers are attempting to reassure city officials that even though grow operations can take up to 22,000 square feet indoors, most aren’t interested in such large-scale grows.
Richard Miller attended Tuesday’s meeting and currently cultivates less than 100 plants. Given the opportunity, he said he wouldn’t grow too many more.
“That’s a lot of work. People don’t seem to realize how hard it is to grow cannabis, and I would do it on a much smaller scale,” he said.