By Deb Murphy
Voters within Bishop City limits approved Inyo County’s advisory measures on marijuana operations, both recreational and medical. However, those voters apparently don’t talk to the majority of the councilmembers.
The Council started the conversation on what, beyond the legality of personal use and cultivation defined by the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, the City would allow. The consensus was “very little.”
The purpose of the exercise was to come to a consensus and provide direction to City Counsel Ryan Jones. The next step will be the Planning Commission, then back to City Council.
Karen Schwartz led the charge to allow a broad range of activities, from commercial grow operations to testing and laboratories. “Let them (potential business owners) make the decision,” she said. “Things have changed. We’re not in a position to turn our backs on any business.”
The arguments were fairly consistent through the available options of what can be regulated by local entities: cultivation, processing and manufacturing, sales and distribution, delivery and transportation, testing labs, indoor greenhouse cultivation and outdoor cultivation.
Schwartz got agreement from a majority of the councilmembers on delivery/transportation—okay, as long as no money changes hands and the delivery services get a Bishop City business license; the only caveat on indoor or greenhouse cultivation was building codes had to be adhered to and outdoor cultivation for personal use was also okay as long as the plants were not visible from a public right-of-way.
The arguments from Councilmembers Laura Smith, Joe Pecsi and Pat Gardner seemed to hinge on constituent input. Councilmember Jim Ellis had input from both sides of the issue from voters.
First, commercial cultivation: Schwartz pointed out the size of those operations almost ruled out opportunities within the city limits so why bother regulating it. Smith wanted a ban in writing; Gardner assumed marijuana businesses wouldn’t be profitable in Bishop.
On processing and manufacturing: Schwartz saw a potential marketing potential, similar to craft breweries. “I lean toward Karen,” Ellis said, “but I don’t support retail operations. “I don’t see these businesses making soap,” said Smith. “It’s another substance that can be abused and create problems. I don’t want it.” Gardner said such businesses wouldn’t be profitable.
Sales and distribution fell flat. “There’s no reason to say no except for old stereotypes,” said Schwartz. But the rest of the members said “no.”
In terms of testing and laboratories, the Council seemed confused as to what that entailed. Pecsi had visions of meth labs and explosions. Ellis joined Schwartz in the minority on approving those activities.
The only public comment came from Chris Taylor, owner of McMurry’s Sports Bar. His slant was the potential for tax revenues. Plus, “You don’t have the right to say people can’t open certain kinds of businesses,” he said.
The County Board of Supervisors were scheduled to hear an update from staff on similar issues today.