By Deb Murphy

Inyo County debuted its epic community outreach effort in Big Pine Monday evening. The goal: an accurate litmus test on residents’ embrace or at least tolerance of commercial marijuana operations. The campaign conducted by the Planning Department staff and headed by Senior Planner Cathreen Richards will have 12 stops on this cannabis caravan. Tonight, staff will be at Olancha’s Fire House at 6 p.m.

If one had to boil the two-hour session down to minimal words, they’d be: Big Pine is fairly tolerant. The formal Big Pine area voted against commercial operations on the County’s advisory November 8 ballot items; the two tracks on Reynolds Road went for commercial enterprises. The margins in both areas were narrow.

The packed town hall included a few not-in-my-community folks, a few more who wanted little or no restrictions on commercial operations, some of those were not Piners, and representatives from the Big Pine Tribe of the Owens Valley. Tribal lands, as sovereign nations, are exempt from any restrictions.

Some of the highlights:

Cultivation for Personal Use: State law allows cultivation of six plants for personal use. Residents expressed concern over potential theft, one wanted permits and fees for personal use. On the flip side, a resident pointed out existing nuisance laws would apply and any additional restrictions would just cost money to enforce.

Commercial Cultivation: Richards explained the possibility of conditional use permits to allow cultivation for sale in the community, as well as the four applicable types of licensing, dependent on size. Beyond distance restrictions placed by state law between commercial grows and schools, much of the residential areas could support a commercial operation but would require a conditional use permit.

The consensus was no commercial grows in residential zones, but there was some interest in Type 1 operations, less than 5,000 square feet. Rumor has it Snoop Dogg is buying up Adelanto. That statement sent chills through the crowd. With background checks and felons not allowed to license operations, a resident added the possibility of putting residency requirements for licensing within the county. Another suggestion: look at each license application and make decisions on a case-by-case basis.

Ironically, the only parcel large enough for a Type 4 license was acreage on the north end of town, a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Re-Greening Project. Property owner consent for renters or lessees’ personal or commercial grows is required, but Richards was unaware of LADWP’s stance. We may have that answer by the end of this week.

Two locals were completely against commercial grows.

Manufacturing is divided into two types: Type 1 involves volatile substances, Type 2 doesn’t. Nobody wanted Type 1 which Richards explained would probably only be allowed in the few industrial zones in the county. Again, a case-by-case decision was suggested. Another local thought Type 1 in residential, basically Mom and Pop operations, could be acceptable.

Retail, Mobil Delivery Services and Microbusinesses (small scale cultivation, manufacturing, distribution and retail, requiring licensing for each function) all got a similar reaction. Suggestions included limiting retail operations to be proportionate with the community’s population, don’t enforce distances between pot retail and bars, fix zoning to open more areas for microbusinesses and keep everything in a scale with the County. The only glitch in arguments for proportion between pot sales and population is the simple fact that community populations explode with tourists on weekends and through the summer.

Workshops, all from 6-8 p.m.

March 8, Olancha Fire House

March 9, Keeler Fire Station

March 13, Round Valley School

March 15, Legion Hall, Independence

March 16, Northern Inyo Hospital District Board Room, 2957 Birch St.

March 20, Jill Kinmont Boothe School, Bishop

March 22, Statham Hall, Lone Pine

March 23, Laws Museum

March 27, Bishop Golf Course

March 30, Trona Golf Course

April 5, Tecopa Community Center

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