By Deb Murphy

After seven community cannabis outreach sessions, Inyo County Planning Department’s Cathreen Richards and Tom Schaniel probably thought they’d heard it all. But Thursday evening’s meeting at Laws Museum, though the smallest to date, raised some new suggestions and concerns.

November 8, voters approved Proposition 64, legalizing recreational marijuana as well as two advisory measures indicating a certain acceptance for commercial and medicinal marijuana operations. County-wide, the points spread on all three measures was 10 to 12 points with the taxation measure passing 64 to 36 percent. The purpose of the month-long outreach: evaluate the level of acceptance and/or tolerance for pot businesses on a community by community basis.

With the City of Bishop putting the screws to commercial cannabis, Thursday’s meeting was the only session in District 2. None of the four actually lived in the area which is one of the few spots in Inyo with light or heavy industrial zoning.

Similar to comments already logged, there was a concern but still some tolerance for commercial grow operations in residential areas. Buffer zones could be applied to make Type 1 (operations under 5,000 square feet) licensing acceptable.

The one new twist was applying the state regulations on distances from schools and day care centers for commercial operations (600-feet) and use (1,000-feet) to other public places like parks, museums, churches and libraries.

Concerns over pesticide and herbicide use were addressed by Richards. As agricultural crops, pot would be regulated like any other crop.

Equally important, Richards assured the participants that licensing for Type 1 manufacturing, involving the use of volatile solvents, would be regulated by the appropriate state departments. Even as Inyo goes through the outreach process, the state is still working on specific regulations to meet the January 1, 2018 deadline.

All four were open to both retail and microbusinesses (combinations of any business categories with the exception of testing) within the county.

The current operator of a cooperative medical marijuana operation asked that priority be given to existing businesses and that licenses be limited to County residents.

There are four more opportunities to get in on the discussion: Monday, March 27 at the Bishop Golf Course; Thursday, March 30 at the Trona Golf Course; Monday, April 3, Keeler Fire Station and Wednesday, April 5, Tecopa Community Center. All the sessions run from 6 to 8 p.m.

Planning will compile the comments, put together draft ordinances and go through a second round of community meetings before the matter goes to the Board of Supervisors for a public hearing and final decision.

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