September 25, 2016
Joint Meeting Of The City Council & Planning Commission, September 13, 2016
This was a special joint meeting of the City Council and Planning Commission solely to consider an Ordinance Amending Chapter 17.180 "Medical Marijuana Facilities Location." The proposed amendment clarifies and expands the current law. The current law did not address manufacturing (making edibles, packaging product, extraction, etc.). The amendment would put manufacturing in the industrial zones along with cultivation. The amendment also included restrictions on extraction methods. Some extraction methods use flammable solvents.
Testing and distribution facilities are addressed in the amendment, too, and they will be restricted to the industrial zones. The definition of "delivery" is also in the amendment. The existing ordinance is silent about delivery which, I think, made it illegal. Does merely defining it in a zoning ordinance make it legal, in the absence of any sort of restriction? Maybe it does.
Attorney Jennifer Mizrahi first covered some corrections to be made to the proposed amendment. After that, Mayor Pro Tem Joe McKee said that section 17.180.060(d) Operational Requirements needed to be culled because as written it would be too burdensome. Here's my summary of the 12 paragraphs that make up that section:
- "Manufacturers are limited to certain equipment, methods, solvents, gases and mediums when creating medical marijuana extracts."
- "Medical Manufacturing Facilities with a state license of a Type-6 (non-volatile) or a Type 7 (volatile) classification may be allowed to operate under this Chapter."
- All of the usual laws regarding air, water, health and safety apply. The usual permits are required.
- Class I and Class II solvents (as defined by the FDA) are forbidden.
- But "butanes, ethanol, carbon dioxide, propane, heptane or other solvents exhibiting low to minimal potential human health-related toxicity for extraction, or other methods approved by the State" are okay. Any solvent must be at least 99% pure.
- Extraction using hydrocarbons must conform with the standards of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and with proper ventilation.
- If CO2 is used for extraction, that also must conform to ASME standards. And there has to be proper ventilation.
- If any other method of extraction is used, there must be proper ventilation and ignition source controls.
- "The amount of residual solvent per gram of finished extract cannot exceed 300 parts per million when quality assurance tested."
- An exact duplicate of 3 above.
- "Manufacturers may use heat, screens, presses, steam distillation, ice water, and other methods of extraction without employing solvents or gases to create kief, hashish, bubble hash, or vegetable oils or fats derived from natural sources, and other extracts."
- "Manufacturers using extract to create ingestible products shall only use food-grade ingredients."
Attorney Mizrahi said that in a discussion earlier that day with Mr. McKee he had expressed his desire to get rid of 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11 and 12; leaving the "less stringent" requirements.
Council Member Anayeli Zavala said she thought it was important to retain the level of detail in the paragraphs that Mr. McKee wanted to eliminate.
Ms. Zavala also spoke about another provision in the proposed amendment. That provision is 17.180.060(e) which requires marijuana manufacturing facilities to hire a Ph.D chemist to "supervise the design, installation and operation of the facility’s systems and manufacturing processes." She asked if the intent was for the chemist to be there only during setup, or is the chemist supposed to supervise on an ongoing basis.
Council Member Russell Betts said he didn't see anything in the proposed amendment that gives the city the ability to shut down a non-confirming business. The attorney assured him that provision was in there. [There's only one thing on the agenda, this proposed amendment, and it's only 10 pages long, but that's still too much for Betts]. The relevant bit is at 17.180.120(d): "Failure to abide by any laws mentioned in this subsection shall constitute a public nuisance and shall subject the medical marijuana facility to revocation of any and all entitlements, licenses and permits." Then again in 17.180.130(b) which begins "A conditional use permit approved for a Medical marijuana Facility may be suspended or revoked for any violation of this Chapter..."
Mr. Betts went on to ask if a testing lab could be safely located in a commercial zone. The amendment is written to restrict them to industrial zones, but his concern is that industrial land has become so expensive here that a lab might benefit from being able to open in a less expensive commercial zone.
Planning Commissioner Dirk Voss said he was ready to approve the amendment now.
Commissioner Paula Terifaj said she thought that labs should be permitted in commercial zones.
When Mayor Matas opened the public hearing, the first speaker was Jeff Ridge. He said that he thought the 99-plant limit for dispensaries should be changed so that cultivation in dispensaries is restricted in some other way, such as square footage or wattage used. He said the 99-mature-plant limit made it very difficult for dispensaries to operate. He also suggested delivery services should be required to have city or county permits from any city or county that bans delivery service before the service can deliver there. The intent would be to keep delivery services from going into cities where they are banned.
Bob Sellen spoke next. He was there representing a new group called DHS Can. He said they think it's good to have laws in place until the new state laws go into effect. He said there is no independent third party testing lab for marijuana.
Gretta Carter spoke in favor of the amendment, saying that until the state regulations come into place, city regulations like this protect the marijuana industry.
Dan Osborne with Clonetics Laboratories said the testing will keep the medicine safe for patients.
Brent Furman expressed support for the amendment. He said Ph.D. chemists are usually brought in after the "crude" oil has been extracted to oversee the refining process.
Andrew Milks supports the amendment. He said he would like to see the 99-plant cap removed. The coming California regulations restrict it by square footage, not by number of plants. The smallest state license will be 5000 square feet. He asked for a matching municipal limit.
Back when the original medical marijuana ordinance was debated and approved, the issue of whether the limit should be by square footage or number of plants was discussed quite a bit. I thought square footage would be a lot simpler to administer, but others said counting plants was easier. Representatives from the marijuana industry commented then that the 99-plant limit was fine and they could certainly work with that. Somehow it is now unusable! Five-thousand square feet is more square footage than any dispensary in town, and I mean the entire dispensary, not just the grow room. Organic Solutions of the Desert, the large dispensary on Ramon in Palm Springs is something closer to 5,000 square feet. Maybe it's a coincidence that Organic Solutions of the Desert is also the stinkiest of the dispensaries in the Coachella Valley.
Michael Dixon said he was concerned at the lack of a reference to the most recent state legislation, SB 837. He has found several inconsistencies between that legislation and the proposed amendment. He said the most qualified people in the marijuana industry are not Ph.D. chemists, but those who have had the most innovation in extraction. The proposed amendment's only quality standards concern potency and residual solvents. More than that needs to be tested. He also said there needs to be consideration of the fact that the amendment's definition of "manufacturer" is so broad it includes the simple re-packaging and labeling of products that goes on at a dispensary.
Nicole Salisbury recommended there be a neutral third party tester, rather than having each cultivator hire their own chemist. She also said that testing labs should be permitted in commercial zones. She expressed dissatisfaction with the 99-plant limit, saying it is too small.
Katy Podine said that the ordinance could be re-amended at any time, so there is no real risk in fast-tracking this amendment. She said that the definition of "manufacturer" was taken directly from state law.
Planning Commission Chair Cathy Romero said the discussions so far all focused on safety and quality and warned against the possibility of over-regulating. She said that if a business in Desert Hot Springs wanted to extract the oils of a lavender plant or frankincense or sandalwood, she doubted that the city would be so concerned with quality and safety.
Commissioner Voss pointed out that the provision in the amendment for a Ph.D. chemist already defines the position as neutral and third-party. Here is that paragraph people have been talking about:
As a condition of obtaining a City-issued medical marijuana regulatory permit and conditional use permit, a licensee of a manufacturing facility desiring to operate under this ordinance shall first verify that the licensee employs or contracts with a person who has a PhD in chemical sciences who shall supervise the design, installation and operation of the facility's systems and manufacturing processes. The licensee shall submit to the City a written statement that he or she certifies under penalty of perjury that the name of the employee/contractor is true and correct. The employee/contractor shall also submit a written statement that he or she certifies under penalty of perjury his or her educational qualifications and verifying that the supervisor is employed full-time to supervise the design, installation and operation of the facility's systems and manufacturing processes.
IMO, since the paragraph permits the chemist to be either an employee or an independent contractor, I have to disagree with Mr. Voss. He cited the fact that the paragraph requires certification. But the only verifications actually required are certifications of the chemist's name, qualifications and that he is employed full time.
Commissioner Andrew Cirner also warned against the risk of over-regulating.
Commissioner Terifaj expressed concern that the city might be approving something that would be in conflict with state law in 2018. The attorney pointed out section 17.180.060(f) [it's identified as "(e)" in the agenda packet due to a typo, but this comes right after the requirement for a chemist] which says state regulations take precedence over city regulations..
State Regulations. In the event the State of California implements health and safety regulations applicable to Medical marijuana Manufacturing Facilities, upon implementation of such state regulations, all Medical marijuana Manufacturing Facilities operators shall immediately implement the state regulations. Should there be a conflict between the provisions of this Chapter and the state regulations, the state regulations shall control.
Ms. Terifaj suggested that the city go ahead and approve the zoning component of this amendment, while forbidding extraction until the state regulations are in place.
Commissioner Voss moved for approval of the amendment, with all of the corrections that the attorney listed. In 17.180.060(e) the reference to full-time employment (for the chemist) would be removed. In item 17.180.060(d) all items would be deleted except for 1, 2, 8 and 10. Here those are for your reference:
1. Manufacturers are limited to certain equipment, methods, solvents, gases and mediums when creating medical marijuana extracts.
2. Medical Manufacturing Facilities with a state license of a Type-6 (non-volatile) or a Type 7 (volatile) classification may be allowed to operate under this Chapter.
8. All other methods of extraction shall be conducted in an environment appropriate to the solvent being used, with consideration to proper ventilation and ignition source controls.
10. All equipment, systems and manufacturing processes must meet or exceed all applicable state and federal requirements and regulations regarding air, water, health and safety, and handling, processing and storage of hazardous materials, solvents, gases and waste. No manufacturing facility shall commence operations or be issued any form of certificate of occupancy without first obtaining all required fire, environmental, health and safety, planning, and building certificates, permits and approvals required under City’s Municipal Code and all other applicable county, state and federal regulations
The motion did not change the zoning rule that restricts manufacturing to the industrial zone. Commissioner Cirner seconded the motion. Chair Romero asked Commissioner Voss why his motion did not address the 99-plant limit. He said he feels okay with what we have in place.
The motion was approved 5-0.
Then attention went back to the City Council as they discussed the revised amendment approved by the Planning Commission.
Mayor Matas said he had received information about the dispensaries' problems with the 99-plant limit only the evening before, so he has not had time to fully inform himself on the subject. He said he will organize a subcommittee (himself and Mayor Pro Tem McKee) to meet with the dispensary owners and make sure their voices are heard.
Mr. McKee said that at a later date the council needs to address delivery modifications, the 99-plant limit, and labs in commercial zones.
Ms. Zavala moved to approve with the additional requirement that the Ph.D. chemist is required to visit the facility quarterly. Council Member Yvonne Parks seconded. Approved 4-1 with Mayor Pro Tem McKee voting against.