Northern California

Corning council hears residents’ thoughts on marijuana dispensary regulation

It was standing-room-only during a special joint Corning City Council and Planning Commission workshop on Tuesday as the public took the opportunity to express opinions on whether the town should allow marijuana dispensaries.

The meeting was conducted with the purpose of sharing information on a draft ordinance that repeals existing regulations concerning dispensaries and allows them — and providing for public comment on the subject.

Overall, comments from the floor were about fifty-fifty for and against.

The even odds also seemed to hold true for city officials, with members of the Planning Commission leaning away from the idea, and members of the council leaning in favor of pot shops dotting the landscape of city commerce.

Among those who are opposed to the proposition are former city council members Tony Cardenas and Ross Turner, both of whom took to the podium. Two other former city officials not in favor are Gary Strack, who served as mayor for nearly 40 years, and Steve Kimbrough, who was city manager for 19 years.

City Manager Kristina Millersaid there would be 7.75 percent sales tax on retail sales in town, as well as 15 percent of gross receipts of retail sales going to the state.

For some on the City Council, the assumed increased revenue dollars appeared to be a swaying factor.

However, there were some in the audience who felt those dollars would be eaten up in enforcement and regulating costs.

Concerning the draft ordinance, Miller said the potential allowed sites for dispensaries would be along the Highway 99W corridor, including segments of Solano Street and areas west of Interstate 5.

Originally, the draft plan stated a shop could not set up business within 600 feet of existing schools, parks, playgrounds or other commercial cannabis businesses. The Planning Commission and council asked that be changed to 1,000 feet.

Another change from the original draft, which allowed pot dispensaries within 100 feet of residences within a residential zone, went up to 500 feet from residences.

Both of those requested changes originated with Planning Commissioner Brandt Mesker.

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The draft ordinance requires potential dispensary owners to acquire a permit from both the state and the city.

City requirements include, no felony or crime of moral turpitude within the past ten years; background checks on the person/persons operating the pot shop at the businesses owner’s cost; strict security measures; businesses owned within the past five years; odor control measures; disposal measures, and more.

In addition, the draft ordinance addresses signage, transaction records, the design and look of the building and storefront, access of city officials to the building, business and all records, and enforcement.

Under enforcement, it the draft states if a pot shop owner is out of compliance, the owner can be fined $1,000 a day until compliance is met, with the provision the city can demand a cease and desist order on the business.

“In addition, by state law, the state can come in a shut down a marijuana dispensary immediately if it is out of compliance,” Miller said.

An owner appeal process is written into the draft.

The City Council and Planning Commission said Miller could add the regulation to the draft ordinance allowing only two dispensaries in town.

Strack asked whether a landlord has the right to ban tenants from using or cultivating marijuana, to which City Attorney Collin Bogener said, “Yes.”

According to Miller, the social impact of marijuana dispensaries “is similar to those of alcohol.”

Tehama County Supervisor Bob Williams attended the meeting and said Tehama County is banning marijuana dispensaries and outdoor personal and commercial cultivation, as is the city of Red Bluff and the city of Tehama.

Miller said Chico is allowing delivery of marijuana, but banning dispensaries and commercial cultivation, as is Orland.

Colusa, on the other hand, is embracing the entire movement and going so far as to call itself the marijuana “mecca.”

Corning police Chief Jeremiah Fears said he is confident in the draft ordinance and the city’s ability to enforce the required rules and regulations.

However, there were a few in the audience who pointed out the city is already rampant with crime and a flourishing illegal drug problem, stating they believe pot shops would only add additional work to the already over-burdened police force.

Pastor Ken Killinger stated his concern on the moral message city officials would be giving to the youth and children in the community by allowing marijuana dispensaries.

Turner reminded the commission and council marijuana is still federally illegal and the city would be violating federal law by allowing pot shops.

Stephanie Chase said she thinks the community should ’embrace’ this change and sees a lot of positives in marijuana use.

Marty Mathisen, who serves on the Corning Union Elementary School District Board, complimented the city for ‘taking on this issue in a rational way,’ and that he didn’t have any problems with the city having marijuana dispensaries.

Two women associated with pot shops in the city of Shasta Lake took the floor expressing how the city could benefit from marijuana dispensaries as it has to their communities, including revenues.

Ulanda Hinkston from the Tehama County Drug-Free Community Coalition shared a number of statistics associated with marijuana use, including its widespread use among youths and young adults.

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“The number of young people who believe regular marijuana use is risky is decreasing,” she said. “I am afraid allowing marijuana dispensaries will make that problem worse.”

Jerry Lequia, a longtime resident of Corning, said he is in opposition to the draft ordinance. ‘I pray this city council will be mindful in making this decision,’ he added.

Planning commissioners Frank Barron and Mesker said they don’t want to see pot shops in town, while City Councilman Robert Snow said he is for the idea, as was Mayor Doug Hatley.

Councilwoman Darlene Dickison stated she was originally against the idea but is leaning more to being a proponent.

Councilman Chuy Valerio chose not to comment one way or the other.