By Josh Stephens.
As pot has marched steadily toward legalization in California since the approval of medicinal use, the drug has ostensibly provided relief for countless ailing residents. Even so, marijuana has created headaches for many California cities. Most debates have centered on whether, and where, to allow dispensaries to operate. Many cities forbid them entirely and other cities, like Los Angeles, have had to figure out how to rein in as many as 450 un-permitted, quasi-legal facilities.
It’s a different story in the state’s northwest corner, along a woodsy coastal stretch known as the Emerald Triangle. There, the city of Arcata is addressing a different side of the marijuana economy. It has just become the first jurisdiction in the country to embrace not just the distribution of medical cannabis but also its production.
In May, the Arcata City Council tentatively approved, on a 5-0 vote, the creation of a “Medical Marijuana Innovation Zone,” pending further study and the drafting of a zoning ordinance by the city’s planning commission. City officials believe it would be the country’s first-ever land use designation specifically meant to promote and regulate the production of marijuana and cannabis-related products.
The city has identified several parcels in an industrial area on the edge of town, where an abandoned lumber processing facility may soon provide a city-sanctioned home for marijuana producers. The logic behind the zone hearkens back to the very origin of U.S. zoning when noxious industries were first segregated from residential areas.
In Arcata’s case, the nuisance isn’t from toxic smoke or noise but rather the sickly pungent aroma of some of the world’s most potent bud.