Bishop’s City Council members are standing firm on the marijuana retail operation ban on the record since 2016. Well, at least two of the five are firm, the other three are waffling.
While California approved Prop. 64 in 2016, the Bishop Council kept pot businesses at bay. Councilmember Jim Ellis requested another discussion on marijuana businesses at Monday’s Council meeting. Currently, no pot-related businesses are allowed within the 1.91 square mile city limits, but are in the rest of the County.
The item was discussion only, but the potential of a 3-2 split, if the issue comes back for a vote was clearly in favor of cannabis businesses.
City Planner Elaine Kabala provided some background: The Bishop Planning Commission recommended the City allow retail operations in 2017. The Council didn’t.
Inyo County went through a series of laborious workshops eventually allowing pot businesses within specific areas and with specific restrictions. So, how did that work out? According to City Administrator Ron Phillips, Inyo’s revenues went from just under $100,000 in fiscal year 2017-18 to $320,000 in 2019-20. Inyo set the tax at five-percent with the option of bumping the tax to 12-percent. The tax rate has stayed at five-percent.
A survey of Mammoth Lakes, Inyo’s Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney Tom Hardy indicated there have been no enforcement costs in Mammoth or Inyo and no cases brought to the DA. The East Side has not been struck with reefer madness.
Mayor Laura Smith was very up front. She will not vote for marijuana businesses within Bishop.
Councilmember Stephen Muchovej cited ballot results in Bishop when four pot measures appeared on the ballot along with Prop. 64. Bishop residents approved all four decisively. The closest Bishop measure, H, recreational marijuana use within the city, had the slimmest winning margin at 57-percent. “I just want to do the will of the people,” Muchovej said.
There are options available. A citizen initiative could get the issue back on the ballot in 2022 and the City would have to pick up the $60,000-$100,000 cost.
City Clerk Robin Picken read from a stack of letters related to the agenda item, specifically those indicating the author wanted them read aloud. At the end of the reading, Councilmember Chris Costello questioned those in favor of removing the ban. “I don’t know who those people are,” he said.
Costello asked Ted Stec, Bishop’s police chief, if he had seen any changes in overdoses, driving under the influence or homelessness over the last few years. “Things have changed,” Stec said.
Ellis had toured one of the facilities in Mammoth. “It’s tightly regulated,” he said. “I’d like to look at the whole component.” Councilmember Karen Schwartz also wanted to look at communities with commercial cannabis operations to see how viable they were.
The item was for discussion only, no action was taken, but there’s a good chance the cannabis talks will continue.