By Deb Murphy
Bishop’s Planning Commission didn’t have any luck when it recommended permitting medical marijuana dispensaries last year. The City Council opted to wait and see how the voters reacted to Prop. 64 legalizing adult recreational use and Inyo County’s advisory measures on the November ballot.
Voters in both the County and the City approved, maybe not by a big margin, but approved cannabis businesses none the less. But the majority of the Council stuck to its guns on the premise that cannabis businesses weren’t part of the Bishop image.
Commission Chair Jose Garcia pointed out the discrepancies at Tuesday evening’s meeting. In its third session dealing with commercial cannabis, the Commission approved an ordinance that would allow up to three dispensaries as well as testing facilities within the city limits.
At the initial meeting in March, the Commission balked at the Council’s recommended ordinance that banned every commercial operation except deliveries. The Planning Department was asked to come up with an ordinance allowing commercial operations, then sent back with the direction to develop an ordinance that covered only medical marijuana. All three ordinances were under discussion at Tuesday’s meeting.
The one element of the approved ordinance Garcia questioned was the Council’s “final word” power on cannabis businesses. City Administrator Jim Tatum explained controversial business licenses traditionally went to the Council, in part, to get public input. City Attorney Ryan Jones was blunter. “Considering the politics of the Council, they probably won’t relinquish the final word.”
On the Bishop voters’ approval of commercial cannabis businesses last November, Tatum split hairs. “The vote was on commercial operations in the County, not in the City.”
Recommended Ordinance Details:
Up to three cannabis dispensaries would be permitted uses in both C-1, general commercial and retail district, and C-2, general commercial) districts with testing labs permitted in M-1, general industrial district. The Council would vote once the operation got a business license, passed building inspection, got the approval of the Planning Director and a notarized statement of approval from the building owner, indemnified the City of all liability and provided proof of insurance.
In addition, the ordinance imposes limitations on business hours, requires sales tracking, background checks, records of all assets, liabilities, owners and partners, inventory and product providers. In accordance with Prop. 64, no one under 21 would be allowed on the premises. The potential businesses would have to make the premises “accessible to a tour by neighbors within 100-feet” and provide educational materials on the risk of drug use and drug addiction to youth.
Commissioners Mark Heckman and Darren Malloy both spoke in favor of the approved ordinance. “I’m not going to prohibit a legal business,” said Heckman.
“I feel community standards won’t be harmed,” said Malloy. “It’s what the voters want.”
The City Council will act on the Commission’s recommendation at an upcoming meeting.