Bishop City Council Takes Another Look at Pot

Marijuana Dispensary in Bishop? TBD in the future.

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.

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23 Responses to Bishop City Council Takes Another Look at Pot

  1. Jubie August 30, 2020 at 9:16 am #

    Yes, I agree. Bigotry is not an applicable word in this case.
    However, this is a forum where those of us who disagree can voice our opinions on our leaders. Rather than singling a person or persons out, we can express our dismay at their decisions and as Charles says, vote vote vote!

  2. Reality August 30, 2020 at 12:11 am #

    Laura “In god we trust” Smith thinks that her personal beliefs and choices (religion, pot, etc) should be forced on others. She was chosen to represent us, not the other way around. We are adults. It’s not like there aren’t 2, easily accessible pot shops in Bishop. It is oppressing living in a city that doesn’t allow legal, personal choices (especially after asking us, and getting our approval), and who indicates that the city only represents those who follow their antiquated, religious beliefs. This is America. There is freedom of AND from religion. If you are working in government and don’t understand this basic principal, then YOU are the problem. You can worship any of the over 4,900 different gods (don’t worry, yours is the right one and everyone else is wrong) , you can worship Satan, if you wish. It’s none of the city’s business. If you want to live somewhere where religion is part of the government, I suggest you move to the middle-east. Live and let live. Stop getting into people’s personal business. Laura, I’m sorry that your father was an alcoholic. I’m sorry that we all have to pay the price of personal freedom, for your personal problem. You are wrong and I’m very sorry that I ever trusted you. You should research the meaning of Bigotry.

    • Charles James August 30, 2020 at 7:43 am #

      We should all research the “meaning of Bigotry,” especially in today’s political and social environment. People come to think or feel about things in a certain way based on their life’s experiences and learning. Some of those people run for public office. We are a “representative democracy,” not a “direct democracy,” where the majority always rules, because our forefathers, when creating our government, had the foresight to know that a “true democracy” or “direct democracy” historically is not a “stable democracy.”

      We should be careful about who we accuse of “Bigotry” or other failings as it often comes from a place within all of us, both consciously and unconsciously, that is influenced by how we were raised, what values we hold, our experiences in life, those with whom we associate, and the one that most often wins over our “better “angels,” self-interest, which may not be “enlightened,””well-informed,” or even in the best interests of our communities and country.

      Most people that know Laura Smith might say a lot of things about her, but calling her out as a “Bigot” is not one of them. Laura is a decent person, who based on her life’s experiences as a child and as an adult, as a nurse, and a person of faith, votes her conscience. She disagrees with you on this topic.That does not make her a bigot anymore than your own beliefs and values make you or any of us one. Vote for her replacement in November with that in mind for a person that better aligns with your way of thinking and feelings about governance. Laura has done her part with a number of years of service on the City Council. At least give her and others that serve and have served on the council that measure of respect.

      For the sake of our country and our future, always vote for the “decent person” who you feel best represents your true values and ideas to represent us in government, even if you do not agree with everything they say or do. When you disagree, try to change their mind; when you disagree, vote to put someone in the office that you feel best represents you despite sometimes, your own personal self-interests that may personally benefit you in some way, but not necessarily that of society as a whole.

  3. Almost Native August 29, 2020 at 12:55 pm #

    I’m not trying to preach, but I believe everyone that supports legalization of marijuana use, should now be focused on getting the federal government to change its control on THC to the same as alcohol.
    I really don’t care what the annual mayor of Bishop thinks!

    • Bill August 29, 2020 at 2:22 pm #

      I believe that the House has a bill before it to move cannabis off the controlled list.

  4. Rose August 29, 2020 at 8:19 am #

    Alcohol ruins more lives than marijuana ever will.

  5. Oops! Did I Say That? August 28, 2020 at 8:48 pm #

    “Mayor Laura Smith was very up front. She will not vote for marijuana businesses within Bishop“
    Curious about her stance on the prolific and very illegal, and extremely dangerous meth and heroin going around Bishop and around the Owens Valley in general. And when we’re all going to quit denying it exists? That’s a much more pressing issue in my opinion.

  6. Pat August 28, 2020 at 8:17 am #

    “pot” “marijuana”… how about we stop with the colloquialisms and call it cannabis?

    • Jubie August 28, 2020 at 12:42 pm #

      Oh Pat. I call usually call it cannabis too, but I think we all know what we’re referring to.( colloquialisms are fun!)
      This has nothing to do with the subject of this article. Whether it’s marijuana, pot, reefer, ganja, mary jane, chronic, etc, etc… It’s time to set up shop and make money- just like liquor stores which no one bats an eye at.

  7. Jubie August 28, 2020 at 7:33 am #

    Ian- exactly. How ridiculous to share personal stories instead of examining facts. Very closed minded and not a good example of leadership. Sigh.

  8. Ian August 27, 2020 at 10:02 pm #

    From the video segment discussing cannabis dispensaries in Bishop city limits: Councilmember Costello “For the six years I was addicted to pot, it did no good things in my life and set me back quite a bit.” Mayor Smith ” [Talking about cannabis]..It’s an altering substance that, having grown up with an alcoholic father, I don’t care for substances that you know can have negative effects.”

    These elected official are projecting their own personal biases onto the issue. They were elected to *represent* all the citizens of the City of Bishop. Can we please look at the data about crime rates, the local economy, and local public opinion and then make an informed decision that is best for an entire town?! Maybe poll local constituents? I live in town, no one’s solicited my opinion.

  9. Jubie August 27, 2020 at 3:32 pm #

    Absolutely Mark. The fact that this is even an issue is ridiculous. Get out of the last century and start making some revenue.

  10. Mark August 27, 2020 at 12:16 pm #

    I was on the planning commission for the city of bishop when this issue came up 4 years ago and we approved the proposal, I was appalled with the city council turning down the planning commission’s recommendation on marijuana sales within the city limits. As I predicted during that meeting, dispensaries will pop up outside the city and bishop will lose the revenue. I also thought it extremely hypocritical of the city council to talk about encouraging business and vacant store fronts on Main Street while simultaneously prohibiting legal dispensaries. The city councilman who voted against it in 2016 was Jim Ellis, he was the last vote on it, had he voted for it, we wouldn’t be talking about this now and Bishop would be in better financial state than it’s now.

    • math nerd August 28, 2020 at 8:20 am #

      I remember following that discussion, and to be fair, Jim Ellis was not the deciding vote on that. On first reading he voted to allow for dispensaries and was on the losing end of a 3-2 vote, with Pecsi, Gardner, and Smith voting to ban it outright.

  11. Jubie August 27, 2020 at 10:39 am #

    Please folks, let’s get into the 21st century. We are all ( or should be) educated on this now. So, I will ask the question: who thinks alcohol is o.k., but marijuana is “evil”? Obviously, nothing is appropriate in excess, but come on! Let’s get ourselves up to date with the rest of the country. And no- I do not smoke cannabis FYI!
    I just love it when the 2 or 3 martini a night folks go on about the evils of marijuana. LOL

  12. Dennis Smith August 27, 2020 at 9:12 am #

    I would like to thank ESR for bring this issue to us. Also for the bishop folk in being open-minded, to re look at this issue. Somehow I grew up in the 1970s and never used Marijuana. But I do have a lot of painful lower back issues.
    I had read about creams with marijuana in it. After asking local doctors, I was able to purchase the cream without the commute to LA.
    Unfortunitly, it doesn’t see to work. But, it didn’t cost me a day to try.
    Once again, Thank you
    Stay well and healthy.

    • Bill August 27, 2020 at 2:40 pm #

      If you go out to where Rite Aid is you will find 2 carnaubas distributors. I found both stores staff are more than willing to assist you with what products do what. I use 20mg edibles before I go to bed add get a full nights sleep, before I was up every 2 to 3 hours.

  13. tbone August 27, 2020 at 7:04 am #

    “Mayor Laura Smith was very up front. She will not vote for marijuana businesses within Bishop.”

    I think an important question here is, why? She must have reasons for her her concerns, rather than just “she will not vote for” it.

  14. Charles Springer August 27, 2020 at 5:56 am #

    Perhaps those elected officials believe it’s their job, regardless of the will of the citizenry, to protect us from recreational substances. I anxiously await their proposal to end all alcohol sales in Bishop.

  15. Trouble August 27, 2020 at 5:41 am #

    What’s the Mayor going to do when Amazon starts delivering it?

  16. Low August 27, 2020 at 1:19 am #

    So the people of Bishop voted in favor of cannabis businesses and recreational use in Bishop….and the Mayor said she would not vote in favor of it? Am I reading that right?

    • JaneE August 27, 2020 at 9:03 am #

      The measures presented to the voters were should the county develop regulations for cannabis businesses and whether a tax should be applied to them. State regulations allowed all local governing agencies to create their own regulations in addition to state regs. This was to gauge interest in having another level of regulation, including a local tax at the county level. Bishop city government could and did exercise its authority to regulate (in this case, ban) cannabis within its city limits.

      In any case the vote was not directly about legalizing cannabis, that was the state ballot measure.

      There was one precinct that voted strongly against legalization, but I don’t know if that was city votes or not.


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