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Pals Marijuana Dispensary 1

Commercial Cannabis business is as much about tax revenue to local governments than about whether it is right or wrong for a community… much like tobacco shops or liquor stores

The Bishop City Council’s four-year history with commercial cannabis operations may take a different turn in the near future. Wednesday evening, the city’s Planning Commission got its first look at a draft ordinance. While the Commission didn’t give the draft the go-ahead, it did ask for more information from staff and a second run at a revised ordinance at next month’s meeting.

The thaw in the anti-cannabis iceberg came last October when the previous 3-2 vote against any consideration of recreational cannabis within the city limits turned to a 3-2 vote to explore the possibility with a draft set of regulations.

Bishop has remained the single government entity in Inyo and Mono counties with a ban on commercial, or non-medical, cannabis operations. While there are cannabis businesses in “Bishop,” they lie outside the city limits and are processed through Inyo County regulations.

So, what would that ordinance look like and what additional issues were brought up at the Commission?

Commissioners made a series of changes and requests, some of which would make the process less onerous, others, more onerous. While some commissioners wanted specific language regarding names and signage, it was pointed out that could be stepping on First Amendment rights. Also, the age limit was raised from 18 (the age for medical marijuana businesses) to 21.

marijuana buds

Whether for medicinal or recreational purposes, legal marijuana use has become big business and legal, and largely accepted in most communities.

Commissioner Heather Lind wanted to see an overlay of the area of downtown Bishop included in the revitalization effort. Her take: pot shops didn’t exactly fit into the concept of revitalization. The question, though, was how much of the C-1 and C-2 zones would be left for potential cannabis operations.

In addition, Chair Erik Leitch wanted to strike what he defined as “excessively restrictive and unenforceable.” “To my mind,” he stated via e-mail, “this is overreach, telling businesses how they must implement compliance, rather than what they must comply with.”

In a nutshell, the ordinance presented at the meeting included the following:

  • The State law requires cannabis businesses to be 600-feet away from any school. That’s a given but also a limiting factor in small city.
  • A development agreement must be approved by the City. That agreement would be similar to a Conditional Use Permit outlining façade, signage, security, etc.
  • Two storefront retailers would be allowed in C-1 (general commercial and retail) and C-2 (general commercial) zoning. While the ordinance as written only addresses storefront and delivery businesses, there are also regulations allowing other types of activities in case the City chooses to permit those activities.
  • Specific application procedures are outlined, requiring approval from the City Council.
  • Before opening up shop, a Bishop business license, building permits and inspections, certification from the Planning Director the location meets the requirements of the Bishop Municipal Code, a demonstrated right to occupy and use the property, an agreement to indemnify the City, proof of insurance and payment of all costs to the City.
  • Operating restrictions include security, record keeping, odors, business hours (8 a.m. to 8 p.m.), consumption on the premises, sales tracking, background checks on owners and partners and limits on the amount of product displayed.
  • Another requirement: a community relations contact would be available to all businesses and residents within 100-feet of the operation.