City council fails to pass sustainable medical marijuana ordinance

medical marijuana

If the proposed ordinance was passed, Richmond collectives would have to prove that no artificial light was used during the marijuana growing process. (photo by Natalie Jones)

The City Council narrowly failed to pass an ordinance Tuesday that would have required the three medical marijuana collectives in Richmond to purchase their marijuana from suppliers that either grow their crop outside without the use of artificial light, or indoors with solar-powered light.

Councilmember Tom Butt introduced the ordinance, saying he only recently became aware of the potential environmental impact of growing and harvesting medical marijuana.

“I wasn’t aware of the magnitude, the impact of growing indoors,” Butt said. “It just blew me away.”

He credited his discovery to a research study conducted by Evan Mills, a staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. According to the study, the energy required by indoor facilities to grow and maintain medical marijuana is huge, accounting for 8 percent of California’s total household electricity usage and 1 percent nationwide.

In suggesting the ordinance, Butt said he understood it would likely be a contentious issue for the city’s medical marijuana collectives.

“The collectives are not going to like it,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a fight between the purveyors of medical marijuana and those committed to sustainability.”

Ken Estes, owner of the Grand Daddy Purp collective located in Richmond’s Hilltop Mall, largely agreed with Butt’s more sustainable approach, but felt the timing wasn’t right.

“It takes a lot of money to convert to solar,” Estes said. “I do grow my indoor using solar. We should be sustainable. Sustainability is part of medical marijuana. I think this has to be thought out more.”

Butt’s proposed ordinance would have required that the collectives be able to produce documentation, on demand and at the request of the police, stating that the indoor marijuana was grown with solar-powered light. Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus said that there were not proper procedures in place to secure this documentation, if such documentation existed. Councilmember Jovanka Beckles agreed, and asked for the ordinance to be considered at a later date, after the specifics were “tightened up.”

The ordinance’s most vocal opponent was Councilmember Corky Booze, who echoed concerns that there was no viable procedure to verify that a given crop of marijuana was grown using solar-powered light.

“I just don’t see how you’re going to be able to tell where they’re going to buy it from,” Booze said. “How do you figure that if we have the dispensaries and they are serving 800 people a day, how will we check on them?”

Councilmember Jeff Ritterman said he felt that if the ordinance was ever going to be adopted, it needed to happen now.

“I don’t really see the upside of not doing it,” Ritterman said. “Richmond has the best weather for growing crops, a lot of the farmers have told me. What if the city grew the marijuana and sold it to the dispensaries and we could use the money for whatever we wanted?”

Although the council ultimately voted 3-1 in favor, it failed to reach a required four-vote minimum and so the ordinance failed.  Councilmembers Butt and Ritterman and Mayor Gayle McLaughlin voted for it, Booze voted against it, Beckles and Councilmember Jim Rogers abstained, and Councilmember Nat Bates was absent.


  1. Felix Hunziker

    I’m with Corky on this – do we really need our PD checking up on solar installations? And what business does a City have mandating the use of PV? If it’s really such a great way to offset the cost of power then the growers will adopt it themselves. Stop meddling and let the free market decide what works and what doesn’t.

  2. Ria Tanz Kubota

    I absolutely agree with Jeff Ritterman. Richmond could sell marijuana, earn profits, ease the suffering of many. Marijuana growth sounds like the win/win kind of idea that works for all.

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