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CALIFORNIA CITY — The City Council, on Tuesday, approved a new type of cannabis business to be allowed within California City, despite confusion over what the ordinance actually covered.

The cannabis microbusiness permit incorporates small-scale cultivation, manufacturing and distributing in a single entity, rather than separate permits and locations for each.

The ordinance allowing for cannabis microbusiness passed on a 4-1 vote, with Mayor Pro Tem Nick Lessenevitch dissenting, following a public hearing.

The Planning Commission previously debated the measure, in November, and recommended against its adoption. Their concerns were focused on a perceived lack of necessity and that it would lead to additional retail outlets.

While the city has for several years allowed cannabis cultivation, manufacturing and distribution operations, they were permitted as separate operations.

“It’s not actually a new use; it’s a combination of uses already allowed within the city,” Interim Planning Director Paul Junker said.

The microbusiness ordinance, as presented, would also allow for onsite consumption, such as a proposed cannabis resort or special events.

Many in the community opposed to the measure, including Lessenevitch, argued that the ordinance is the first step to allowing more retail cannabis establishments, possibly in closer proximity to residences.

The current ordinance restricts the number of retail operations to two storefronts and 10 delivery-only operations.

“Is it our intention here … to have unlimited dispensaries? It sure sounds like it to me,” Lessenevitch said.

Although the ordinance specifically states that the microbusiness permit in Cal City does not include retail operations, opponents contend that restriction will not hold and will be changed at some future point.

“The city has changed its cannabis code countless times since its inception. It is the repeated behavior of the city to promise the citizens, only to change their promises down the road,” former Councilman Don Parris said.

The state definition of a cannabis microbusiness includes retail as one of the four allowable operations. An entity must have three of the four operations to be considered a microbusiness.

Lessenevitch also argued that the city has not done a good job in regulating the existing cannabis businesses in the city, something that should be addressed before increasing their numbers.

Supporters of the ordinance, including those in the cannabis industry, said it would help grow the industry in Cal City, and therefore increase the tax revenues collected.

It would also increase jobs and training opportunities, supporters said.

Jason Meister, who holds multiple cannabis permits, said the microbusiness would be beneficial in that it would eliminate the additional costs of maintaining separate permits and books for each operation.

Mayor Jeanie O’Laughlin argued that increasing the type and number of cannabis businesses is needed to bring tax revenue to the city, along with local jobs. Retail operations are the larger portion of the cannabis tax revenues received by the city, she said.

“Why wouldn’t we want to open that up?” she asked, adding that she had a vision of a Napa Valley-type reputation for the city, with boutique growers selling their products.

“To me, this is a chance that we have. I don’t see what else we have on our plate right now,” O’Laughlin said.

Some confusion arose with the inclusion of the mention of a cannabis overlay in the ordinance as presented, which would add cannabis businesses to other areas not currently zoned for that type of business. While such an overlay has been discussed by the Planning Commission, it has not been approved and remains very much in doubt.

The ordinance would allow for microbusiness in the industrially-zoned areas, same as for the existing cannabis operations.

The overlay was cited as a reason for several of those speaking in opposition to the ordinance, with some stating it was a means of “sneaking” the overlay into the code and avoiding the Planning Commission in the process.

The language mentioning the cannabis overlay was removed prior to the Council vote.

(1) comment

Jimzan 2.0

CAl-City is desperate for growth and revenue.

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