Commercial cannabis is no longer banned in Barstow, but more work is needed before so-called “pot shops” can legally operate within the city limits.
Barstow City Council on Monday approved a motion to lift its ban on companies selling marijuana within city limits. The 17-page ordinance – which was passed 4: 1 with a dissenting vote by City Councilor Barbara Rose – contains a blueprint for how companies obtain permits, how city officials regulate approved sites, which cultivation methods are permitted and not permitted, and more.
Still, several unresolved terms remain the determining factor in whether or not a lifted ban will actually lead to a new local industry. Some residents see a great opportunity to spur economic growth in Barstow, while others fear the finished law will be a buzzkill for fair competition.
The city council has yet to vote on how the lines will be drawn for the “green zones”, i.e. the areas in which business will actually be allowed. The new language of the municipal code currently does not designate an area within the city limits in which the companies are allowed to operate. Rather, it says that no permits can be issued “until the city council passes a resolution specifying permitted and prohibited locations for any type of cannabis business”.
Further changes to the language of the municipal code on cannabis may be in preparation. The new regulation does not impose a limit on how many cannabis companies can operate in Barstow at the same time.
It also only partially sets guidelines for how Barstow will collect tax revenue from the new industry. Aside from the existing taxes that are levied on all retail sales, the new law does not include a cannabis tax, although future votes could change that. Instead, she opts for a fee for cannabis business permit applications.
The city council has the task of setting a certain amount of the permit fee within 30 days of the Monday meeting. If the councilors fail to do so, the default fee will be set at $ 2,500 per request.
City Councilor Tim Silva cast the decisive “yes” vote on Monday, despite several problems with the current structure of the regulation.
“My voice tonight is contrary to what I believe, but we are not up here for what we believe,” he said from the podium.
Silva said he only gave the regulation the green light because he could push through several changes. He also hopes to avoid involvement in the California Environmental Quality Act by speeding up the process at the city level, reiterating a note made by Building Official Chris Heldreth about the roughly two-year delay in replacing the First Avenue Bridge due to noise concerns at CEQA -Check has done project.
“I don’t think the noise element should have been a problem from day one, but that’s what CEQA can do. It can delay any project,” Silva told The Daily Press after the meeting.
Silva said at the meeting that he plans to push for the final cannabis law to be passed as a voting referendum for all Barstow voters rather than an isolated vote in the city council. Rose, the only deviator in the vote, agreed and indicated that she could offer the necessary “second” to solidify such a motion.
Rose said she voted against the ordinance because she believed people need more time to read and think about the law.
“We have to slow down our processes because every time we rush something, we miss important things,” said Rose. “We miss important formulations that could lead to consequences.”
The new regulation continues to prohibit outdoor cultivation for businesses. It allows most other types of indoor growing, along with other activities such as delivery, retail outlets, and “temporary cannabis events” where people can enjoy marijuana products in stores.
Many local residents spoke out in favor of legalizing commercial cannabis at Monday’s meeting.
Barstow Senior Center President Jeff Eason argued that pharmacies are a means of controlling the current flow of illegally grown cannabis for residents of all ages.
“Right in Barstow, you can have five or six phone calls and people will deliver things home and drive off,” said Eason. “What interests me is where the product comes from, how it is regulated and how consumers will have it. Cannabis is here to stay. It will not go away. You know that.”
Jehad Abuhantash said he has owned several stores in Barstow since 1992, but has only seen the economy decline during that time, with hundreds of store closings. Abuhantash linked commercial cannabis with an opportunity for a wider reversal of this decline.
“Let’s grow Barstow,” he said. “We need more living space. We need more people. ”
As the public comment section shifted from personal speakers to residents calling remotely, eight consecutive callers voted in favor of the regulation. City clerk Andrea Flores noted that 240 written comments on cannabis had also been received.
Some public commentators have been concerned about the details of how these companies operate. Former Barstow councilor Carmen Hernandez made several criticisms, including non-compliance with a $ 2,500 permit application fee.
“If you had 100 companies, you would only make $ 250,000. Not millions, ”she said.
Diana Esmeralda, a former Adelanto City Council candidate, proposed adding a citizens’ commission to oversee Barstow’s new cannabis industry.
“We need to make sure everyone knows what type of licensing will be available,” said Esmeralda. “Please watch out for ‘spot zoning,'” she said, referring to a practice of segregating certain plots of land where cannabis deals are allowed, for the benefit of certain owners and the detriment of surrounding competitors.
“There are a lot of company employees on the phone right now, sniffing around,” she said.
Charlie McGee reports on the city of Barstow and the surrounding communities for the Daily Press. He is also a member of the Report for America Corps of the GroundTruth Project, an independent, non-partisan, nonprofit news organization dedicated to serving the next generation of journalists in the United States and around the world. McGee can be reached at 760-955-5341 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @bycharliemcgee.