Bishop’s Planning Commission finished a lengthy second review of a draft commercial cannabis ordinance this past week. The review focused on changes requested at the Commission’s February meeting. Now it will be up to the City Council to decide if it’s ready to join all the other Eastern Sierra entities and allow pot shops and delivery services within its city limits.
While the Commission members weren’t in total agreement on all of the suggested changes, Chair Erik Leitch’s attitude was to include those elements the majority of the Commission supported and get it to the Council for the final decision. When put to a vote, the draft ordinance passed unanimously.
One of the hang-ups from last month’s meeting was a request to see an overlay of the 1.9-square mile city with commercial cannabis prohibitions identified. No pot operations are allowed within 600-feet of churches, any park managed by the City, schools or day-care facilities leaving only a portion of the retail and commercial zoning in the downtown corridor open to cannabis businesses.
Commission member Heather Lind wanted to keep pot shops out of the designated downtown revitalization zone which would have really limited where a business could legally operate. That effort was quashed with a 5-2 vote.
Another snag the Council will have to figure out: flavored products. Commissioner Patricia Lew wanted those limited in any commercial operation. But, since a lot of the product, particularly edibles, available for sale are definitely flavored, that decision wasn’t made by the Commission. Leitch pointed out the issue with “flavored products” was related more to vaping. Any argument that flavors would be appealing to minors was allayed by the fact commercial pot shops, like bars, will be off limits for those under 21.
Some of the lesser issues included confidentiality of an operation’s sales records the City will audit. Also, the requirement of a “uniformed security guard” on the premises was considered onerous by some Commissioners. However, an existing employee could be certified by the California Bureau of Security and Investigative Services. That qualifier kept the requirement in the ordinance.
The ordinance also gives the City the right to seize samples, an inclusion two of the Commissioners felt was redundant since California law regulates quality and accuracy of THC/CBD levels. That wording, however, stayed in.
Local ordinances cannot be more lenient than state or federal law; they can only be tougher. In some cases, the Commission agreed to include regulations that mirrored the California cannabis laws. The reason: that would allow Bishop’s police department to enforce those laws on the assumption the feds or California law enforcement probably wouldn’t be eager to raid a local pot shop.
The Commission compromised on a request by Lew to post a health warning similar to those posted for cigarette sales. That statement will stay in but only as a recommendation. “No one could identify any scientific consensus about the health effects of cannabis, or consensus language about it from any official body, like the Surgeon General,” Leitch explained in an e-mail.
The next step in the journey of Bishop’s cannabis business ordinance will be at a future City Council meeting.
The draft ordinance discussed at the Commission meeting is available at MetaViewer.php (granicus.com) (Ctrl and click to go to the document). But, the document does not reflect the changes requested by the Planning Commission.