Planning Commission suggests regulation, instead of prohibition

Cannabis cultivation ordinance denied

Lauren Steinheimer
Mount Shasta planning commission voted to deny two ordinances at their meeting Jan. 19: one that would have banned cannabis cultivation and another that would have reduced the planning commission size from seven members to five.

Medical cannabis cultivation and delivery should be regulated, not prohibited, in the City of Mount Shasta according to the five members of the city planning commission present for their meeting Tuesday of last week.

Commissioners Belinda Higuera, Melanie Findling, Barbara Wagner, Alan Pardee and Casey Clure unanimously voted to deny an ordinance that would have banned commercial cultivation in Mount Shasta. Commissioner Emily Derby did not attend the meeting.

The commissioners also voted unanimously to retain the planning commission size at seven members, denying an ordinance that would have reduced it to five.

The number of people living outside city limits allowed to serve on the planning commission was changed from two to three in hopes that would facilitate filling a long-vacant seat.

The idea of creating affordable housing at the vacant Rockfellow House was briefly discussed.

Cannabis regulation

After discussion and a public hearing, commissioners unanimously voted to deny an ordinance that would have banned commercial cannabis cultivation. They included a recommendation to the city council that it be re-written to replace the word “prohibition” with “regulation.”

City planner Kristen Maze presented the ordinance banning commercial cannabis cultivation and delivery in the city. She said the ordinance was written based on advice from city attorney John Kenny and city manager Paul Eckert.

Maze said it was an emergency ordinance and pointed to a March 1 deadline included in the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act. That Act states that all cities and counties in California must have an ordinance in place either regulating or prohibiting medical marijuana cultivation by March 1. Otherwise, licensing and regulation will be handled by the state.

In order to preserve local control, Maze said many cities and counties are opting for placeholder bans that can be lifted at a later date.

She clarified that this ordinance would only ban commercial cultivation and delivery. If it were approved, patients would still be able to grow their own medicine, but not enough to sell to a dispensary.

Maze asked commissioners to approve or deny the ordinance in order to bring the matter before city council as soon as possible.

Even before opening a public hearing, commissioners voiced their disapproval of the proposed ordinance.

“I would like the opportunity to discuss the options of regulating as opposed to a blanket prohibition,” said commissioner Alan Pardee.

Commissioners Melanie Findling and Belinda Higuera agreed. “I understand it’s urgent but I think we need a lot more input from our community,” Findling said, adding that she thought talking to Police Chief Parish Cross and the city attorney would be helpful.

“I don’t like the thought of prohibiting,” Higuera said. “It shows lack of consideration for our community and is just asking for trouble.”

Pardee pointed out that “the state is pushing back to remove the deadline,” referring to Assemblymember Jim Wood’s bill AB 21 to remove the March 1 deadline from the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act.

The bill was approved by the Senate Health Committee on Jan. 20, according to a press release from Wood, and was scheduled to be heard on the Senate floor Jan. 25.

Commissioners agreed they didn’t want to surrender control to the state, either.

“There’s a business opportunity here,” said Barbara Wagner. “With businesses we can issue licenses and collect taxes. If the state takes over we can’t do that.”

During the public hearing, Mount Shasta Patients Collective owner Elizabeth Tabor suggested forming an ad hoc committee to tackle the subject.

“The city can implement a licensing structure. Patients can purchase a plant permit from the city and the money will stay in the city,” Tabor said.

She added that several cities have decided to regulate instead of ban, and offered to share information with the planning commission. “As a dispensary owner, I need to stay up to date on what’s going on,” she said.

Roslyn McCoy thanked planning commissioners for considering and questioning the issue rather than passing a ban. McCoy shared a story about her 85 year old mother in Colorado who has been able to decrease pain medication with the help of THC-infused tootsie rolls.

Commission size

Commissioners unanimously voted to maintain a seven member planning commission and change the restrictions for people living outside city limits from two to three.

They denied a proposed ordinance that would have reduced the number of planning commissioners to five.

Reasons provided for the reduction included a vacant seat on the planning commission that’s been empty since before Maze began working as city planner more than a year ago. Despite advertising in the newspaper, at city council meetings and on craigslist, the planning commission hasn’t been able to find a volunteer.

Higuera asked to table the item until all members of the planning commission were present. “There are currently six of us, so this is awkward,” she said.

Findling said, “Any opportunity to get more people involved in the city is helpful, and there is nobody in this group of six I would want to lose.”

She suggested changing the residency requirements so that three members living outside the city limits would be allowed to serve instead of two.

Higuera said the planning commission did receive applications from people who were interested in volunteering but were not allowed because they lived outside city limits.

Other priorities

In other business during the Jan. 19 Mount Shasta Planning Commission meeting:

• Maze said the property line adjustment for Centennial Park should be wrapped up by the end of the week. “This is something that’s been going on since 2002,” she said.

• Other top priorities for the city planner include: a noise ordinance, annexation of the orchard property and a master plan for The Landing.

• Findling announced an opening on the active transportation committee. “We advise the city on active transportation, go after grants, and make the city more bike and pedestrian friendly,” she said.

The application for committees and commissions can be found on the city website

• Findling said the Rockfellow House, once used to provide a home for disabled adults working for the Opportunity Center, is now vacant.

“The city has a need for affordable housing,” she said. “I don’t have a solution, but it seems like the city might have an interest in taking advantage of this opportunity.”

Council member Kathy Morter was in the audience, and said she thought the Rockfellow House idea was worth looking into. She said she had already mentioned it to the newly-formed quality of life committee, but no progress had yet been made.