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Update on Planning Commission Cannabis Study Session Held on 12/6/17

Post Date:12/08/2017 4:30 PM

Message from Town Manager, Jeremy Dennis:

I want to give you an update on the current community conversation on commercial cannabis (marijuana) operations. As you know, Proposition 64 was approved by the voters of the State, which will legalize the commercial sale of cannabis starting on January 1, 2018. Under Proposition 64, towns and cities may adopt local laws regulating retail locations.

Because this topic is multifaceted, I appreciate the opportunity to share the below information.

Planning Commission
On Wednesday, December 6th, the Planning Commission held a study session on regulations for commercial cannabis in Portola Valley. Residents added their voice to the discussion and those who could not attend in person emailed their comments to the Town.

The Commissioners established a sub-committee to review the Town’s ordinances to determine whether current regulations are sufficient or if additional ordinances may be necessary to regulate potential applications for commercial cannabis activities. The Planning Commission will review the Subcommittee’s work and will make their recommendations on any new ordinances to the Town Council in early 2018.

Town Council
The Planning Commission was directed to review the Town’s ordinances by the Town Council at their October 25th meeting. As a starting point in its deliberations, the Council considered the need for an immediate (and by its nature, temporary) moratorium and concluded that our current regulations (as described below) are highly restrictive and the commercial viability of cannabis retail sales or cultivation in Portola Valley is limited. The Council would consider a moratorium on all cannabis-related activities should it be needed at a future date. Should a moratorium be put in place, it would nullify any then-outstanding applications for a commercial cannabis operation.

Current Regulations
Under the current code, commercial agricultural or retail cannabis operations would be required to submit a formal application for review by Town Planning staff. Such an application would include a request for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP). The CUP is the mechanism used by the Town to determine whether a proposed use is appropriate and legal under Town ordinances and code. All Conditional Use Permits are publicly vetted at Planning Commission meetings.

A CUP requires a set of finding to be made in order to approve the permit. All findings must be made for approval; if one cannot be made by the Planning Commission the use must be rejected.

For a retail operation of any kind in Portola Valley, seven findings are necessary. I want to highlight finding 7, which says “…that a proposed use will meet a need in the town and that a majority of the clientele of the proposed use will come from the town…”.  In light of the Town’s limited retail space, this finding is intended to promote local neighborhood-serving businesses.  I thought it important to emphasize this finding as it is an effective tool in preserving the right mix of retail use for residents and not creating incentives for businesses that serve beyond the Town limits.

Finally, the Town is unaware of any pending applications for any type of commercial cannabis operations.

If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts, please contact Debbie Pedro, Planning Director, at 650.851.1700 Ext. 218 or via email at


Thank you,
Jeremy Dennis
Town Manager
650.851.1700 Ext. 215


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