By Deb Murphy
The Bishop Planning Commission will have its plate full at its Tuesday meeting as it takes on marijuana cultivation and vaping ordinances with both public hearings and recommended ordinances on the agenda for the 7 p.m. meeting at City Hall.
While the city has ordinances against medical marijuana dispensaries, there are no regulations regarding cultivation. If Bishop chooses not to deal with cultivation, the state will with recently passed legislation.
During its November 9 meeting, City Council opted to go the self-regulation route. Council members had mixed suggestions as to how to deal with cultivation of a controlled substance that may be much less controlled if and/or when a state-wide initiative goes on the ballot next year.
Councilmember Joe Pecsi maintained that the federal government still lists pot as a Schedule 1 (the most addictive, most dangerous classification) drug and no city or state can pass laws to legalize it. This despite the fact the current administration has declined to pursue states where recreational or medicinal use of the drug is okay.
Councilmember Karen Schwartz was on the other end of the spectrum with a “what’s the harm of medical marijuana” stance.
The Planning Commissioners will be faced with a choice of possible ordinances: one that bans medical marijuana cultivation within the city limits and one that allows cultivation with a host of restrictions.
Those restrictions start with outdoor cultivation: a total ban. Indoor cultivation will be allowed by a patient or caregiver at least 18 years old in the residence, single-family units only, of that patient with a permit from the Bishop Chief of Police. If the residence is a rental, the grower needs written permission from the property owner.
The ordinance allows for cultivation in the home or in a separate enclosed, secure structure. No one under 18 can live in a home where pot is grown. If a separate structure is the growing area, it has to be under lock and key if someone under 18 lives in the residence. Grow-space cannot exceed 25 square feet; grow lights can’t exceed 1200 watts; the home has to basically function as a home; if a neighbor smells pot odors and complains, cultivation could be deemed a public nuisance. If growers need more than 25 square feet, there are more hoops to jump through.
The permitting process requires a list of names of everyone who lives on the premises, the name of the patient or caregiver, a copy of a valid medical recommendation or county-issued medical marijuana card and a signed consent form that allows inspection of the grow site with 24-hours’ notice.
The vaping, or e-cigarette, ordinance is a bit simpler. Existing ordinances that ban tobacco product use in city-owned property will be amended to include e-cigarettes.
The ordinance that restricts smoking/vaping retail businesses begins with “The City Council finds that smoking and vaping uses have been associated with increases in noise, loitering, odors, public nuisances and disturbances of the peace.”
Then the law goes on to add restrictions. No smoke/vape shops within 1,000 feet of a school or within 1,500 feet of another smoke/vape shop. In addition, no minors allowed, either to vape or work at the business, no liquor served and uniformed security guards if “deemed necessary by the Chief of Police. The shop has to be well-lit, well-ventilated and the interior visible from the outside. The permit applicant has to provide the name and additional information on all employees.
The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m., Tuesday in the Council Chambers at Bishop City Hall.