(Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)

Marijuana legalization may be put on hold in San Mateo County

California voters passed Proposition 64 in November to legalize recreational marijuana, but one county is asking for a pause on the decriminalization until its policies can catch up.

San Mateo County’s Board of Supervisors unanimously supported a temporary moratorium on legalization Tuesday that would ban personal marijuana growing and distribution activities for an unspecified amount of time.

“It’s not that you’re saying yes or that you’re saying ‘no,’” said San Mateo’s District Five Supervisor Adrienne Tissier. “I just think the county needs to digest the materials here and not move too fast.”

Concerns on rushing into legalization are many, not least of which is the fact that Foster City, Burlingame, San Bruno and San Mateo have all decided to impose their own moratoriums on non-medical marijuana related activities. The county supervisors agreed Tuesday that coming up with a central countywide plan would streamline the process for all of its cities.

It’s unlikely that California will be ready to issue licenses for private commercial activity prior to Jan. 1, 2018, so if this moratorium passes, any limitations on cultivation would only affect outdoor growing. But in the efforts of educating themselves, supervisors called a number of experts to testify on the potential affects — short-term and otherwise — marijuana legalization will have on the county.

Agriculture Commissioner Fred Crowder predicted during the meeting that $100 million could be generated annually from greenhouse marijuana cultivation, a potential boom in tax money for the county. But with this would come increased costs to monitor marijuana farms, ensuring they meet environmental standards.

The issue of the county’s ongoing work to create smoke-free housing and public spaces may also come into question under the new legalization.

Sixty-three percent of San Mateo County’s voters supported Prop. 64, higher than the 57 percent statewide support. The county does not currently possess any medical marijuana dispensaries.

The San Mateo Board of Supervisors has directed County Counsel John Beiers to provide them with an urgency ordinance on the moratorium at its next meeting on Dec. 13.

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