By Deb Murphy
A couple of elements of Inyo County’s cannabis journey were altered at last Thursday’s special Board of Supervisors meeting.
First, the moratorium on medical and commercial marijuana operations was extended for another ten and a half months. There’s slim chance the moratorium will last that long. The simple reason for the moratorium, originally put in place in early November, was to preclude commercial operations from setting up shop before Inyo’s ordinances were in place.
Technically, the state will start issuing licenses January 1. If a county or city doesn’t have its own ordinances by then, the state regs prevail. Any state-licensed operation could be grandfathered in before the county finalizes its own regs. Both Inyo and Mono counties have used the moratorium to keep that from happening.
More impactful were recommendations from Inyo’s Planning Commission following their own review of the ordinance at its December 20 meeting.
According to Commissioner Todd Vogel, those recommendations were:
Allow non-volatile manufacturing businesses in rural residential zoning. The current ordinance restricts that category of manufacturing to industrial zones.
Rather than the noticing of the intent to establish a commercial cannabis business set by the county to all residents within 1,200 feet of the site, the Commission recommended the same noticing, 300-feet, as other Conditional Use Permit requests.
Allow commercial cultivation in R-1 zones, up to the six plants allowed for cultivation for personal use without the need to go through the CUP process. The Commission recommended a much simpler administrative permit.
Commission Chair Frank Stewart provided some of the reasoning behind the more liberal suggestions. In a phone interview, he described the non-volatile manufacturing suggestion as “a benign request.” According to Stewart, just the use of ice or water to maintain freshness is defined by the state as “non-volatile” manufacturing.
“There’s hold-over apprehension,” he said. “But the controversy has passed. The voters approved commercial operations and the county will receive taxes.”
Stewart pointed out the six plant for sale or personal use in R-1 zones would encourage cottage industries and produce the product where it will be consumed. As it stands, the county’s ordinance limits commercial grows to 12-acre or larger Rural Residential parcels. Only areas primarily in southern Inyo have parcel sizes and zoning for large scale operations.
Those large scale operations have been the target of residents in the Olancha/Cartago communities. The county’s November ’16 advisory measures passed in the area, but recently residents have expressed strong feelings against large-scale, or any, cannabis businesses. “A secret ballot is the best measure of the breadth of the community’s feeling,” Stewart said. “We need to move beyond the stigma.”
Inyo’s Board of Supervisors will listen to the planning commissioners’ point of view at its January 2 meeting, rather than the having the first official reading of the final ordinance as was originally scheduled.
The final ordinance could then be read at the January 9th meeting, the second reading the following week and the ordinance official 30 days afterwards.