City Spells Out Stance on Marijuana

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At last week’s Speak Up Newport meeting, Newport Beach Chief of Police Jon Lewis and Newport Beach City Attorney Aaron Harp clarified some misconceptions about the recently legalized use of recreational marijuana.

They reiterated that marijuana is legal for adult use only. Adults 21 and over may possess up to one ounce of marijuana or up to eight grams of a concentrated version. Adults may also transport or share the same quantities, but smoking it is legal only in their house or property.

For those who live on a boat or in an RV, smoking marijuana is not legal, even if it is your residence.

When pressed about smoking marijuana in a garage or front porch, Lewis responded that the law includes “indoor or accessory structures,” such as a shed or detached garage, and as long as the residence is not within 1000 feet of a school or park. In that circumstance, an adult resident may smoke within the residence, and not in a place that would make the smoke detectable outside of the home.

Landlords must specify in their rental agreements what they will and will not allow on their properties, Harp confirmed. He advised a landlord in the audience to consult her attorney on the wording for the agreement, if she wants to prohibit marijuana plants as well as smoking on her properties.

Within homes, adults may grow and own up to six marijuana plants. Lewis confirmed that this means six per house, not per adult living in that house. Outdoor cultivation of marijuana plants is not allowed.

Selling marijuana has been and will continue to be illegal in Newport Beach. Harp said that Newport Beach “banned everything” with Newport Beach Municipal Code 10.70.010, which was passed in 2015.

It states, “Marijuana cultivation, delivery, and dispensaries shall be prohibited activities in the City, except where the City is preempted by Federal or state law from enacting a prohibition on any such activity.”

This also means that the city won’t see much in the way of tax revenue from marijuana sales, because it is illegal to sell. In other jurisdictions, such as nearby Santa Ana, businesses may be licensed for selling recreational marijuana starting in January 2018, which is also when the state will begin collecting taxes on it and assessing cultivation fees on growers.

With the number of drug-related traffic collisions expected to rise, the police chief said that his main concern was public safety. The same DUI laws that apply to alcohol-related arrests apply to drug-related DUI arrests, even though a blood or breathalyzer-style test for marijuana does not yet exist.

Lewis said that he and his department are ready, and acknowledged that new challenges await them. “There are some complex legal issues. This is going to be a learning process.”


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