Growing marijuana in Sacramento is legal, after city officials spent more than three hours debating the issue at Tuesday night's council meeting.

The ordinance on marijuana cultivation applies to medicinal growers in the Sacramento city limits. It was approved on a 5-3 vote, with councilmembers Allen Warren, Angelique Ashby and Jeff Harris voting the measure down.

The city's current moratorium on cultivation that the council approved back in February will remain in place until rules and guidelines for growers are created, which won't be until the new year.

California passed a statewide measure to legalize recreational marijuana use for adults earlier this month. "And I think we need to be practical and deal with it," Councilmember Jay Schenirer, who crafted the ordinance, said at the meeting. Schenirer has advocated for the city to get involved in regulating the marijuana industry, saying it's a matter of responsibility.

Schenirer said local law enforcement estimates more than 400 illegal grows already operate in Sacramento, which police and code enforcement do not have the resources to shut them down. "How we get resources to do that is part of what we're talking about," Schenirer said.

Supporters of the ordinance point to the potential economic stimulus a regulated marijuana industry would bring to the city. A study from the University of Pacific found the Sacramento region could benefit from 20,000 direct and indirect jobs and $4.2 billion annually as a result of a "supportive local policy environment" for a legal marijuana industry.

A conditional use permit approved by Sacramento's planning and design commission is required to establish a marijuana grow site.

Rules for licensed medical marijuana growers:

  • Sacramento's 4 percent business tax would apply to operations, and potentially a 1 percent tax on gross yearly sales could be applied. This revenue would go toward the community where the cultivation site is located, but city officials are still working on this part of the ordinance.
  • Growers will need to create a plan with the city for how their operation might affect their neighbors, in order to mitigate the possible negative impacts.
  • They can only operate in enclosed facilities that are not immediately visible to the public, with no more than one non-illuminated sign that's smaller than six-square-feet.
  • The operation must be 600 feet away from a school or park, 1,000 feet away from another cultivation site and 300 feet from existing residential areas.
  • The site cannot be larger than 6,400 square feet.