South Lake Tahoe City Council subcommittee to host forum on cannabis | TahoeDailyTribune.com

South Lake Tahoe City Council subcommittee to host forum on cannabis

In this June 27, 2017, photo, popcorn shaped marijuana nuggets are seen in a plastic container at the Higher Path medical marijuana dispensary owned by Jerred Kiloh in Los Angeles. On a typical day, $15,000 can change hands in his dispensary, where a steady stream of customers pick from shelves stocked with products, from cannabis-infused lip balm to potent concentrates that look like thin sheets of amber-colored ice.

A City Council subcommittee will hold a public forum Monday morning to discuss substantive changes to city’s sidelined cannabis ordinance.

The forum comes after backers of a referendum effort learned on Sept. 28 that they turned in more than enough valid signatures, and after City Council certified the referendum petition Tuesday, Oct. 2.

However, council declined to take further action.

Under state law, the referendum process forces local governments to either repeal the law cited in the referendum or put it before voters. It does not require the local government to act immediately, explained newly hired city attorney Heather Stroud at the Oct. 2 meeting.

Stroud also explained that since the referendum process prevents the recently approved cannabis ordinance from taking effect, a moratorium approved by council in early 2018, which would have been nullified under the new ordinance, will remain in effect until council takes action or until it expires in early December. At that point, council could move to extend the moratorium for another year.

However, some of those at the Oct. 2 meeting asked council to try to draft a new cannabis ordinance that would address perceived shortfalls in the most recent ordinance.

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"We have to keep moving forward," said Chris Ziegler, a South Shore resident and founder of CannaBlue.

Ziegler compared the referendum to halting of a long anticipated race after the race had already started. Echoing comments made by others who hope to establish a cannabis businesses in the city, he asked council to work with stakeholders to quickly come up with a modified ordinance.

Should council decide to repeal the ordinance, rather than put it to a vote of the electorate, it would be unable to adopt that same ordinance for a year. However, council could approve a new cannabis ordinance as long as it is discernibly different than the repealed ordinance.

Tahoe Wellness Cooperative founder and executive director Cody Bass was among those calling for a collaborative effort to draft a new cannabis ordinance. James Anthony, one of Bass' attorneys, spearhead the referendum process at Bass' request.

Speaking before council Oct. 2, Bass, who is currently running for City Council, repeated criticisms of the recently approved ordinance, including its use of development agreements, which he said would lead to big cannabis businesses coming into town. He also criticized limitations on cultivation and the exclusion of manufacturing, which would essentially guarantee that the majority of legal cannabis would come from outside the Tahoe Basin, Bass said.

"To repeal the law, make changes, is completely lawful … and we can make this happen rather fast."

Despite some agreement on moving forward with a revised ordinance, some people raised concerns with the petition signature gathering process.

Oliver Starr, a South Shore resident who hopes to operate a cannabis business in the city, said he documented multiple instances of signature gatherers providing misleading and false information, which is against the law.

The Tribune previously reported on similar concerns regarding the process.

South Lake Tahoe Police Chief Brian Uhler said he was aware of one report filed with the department. Additionally there were multiple calls for service regarding the petition signatures.

Councilor Jason Collin asked that the appropriate staff look into the concerns to ensure "integrity" in the process. Interim City Manager Dirk Brazil said staff would look into the issue and report back to council at its next meeting.

Ultimately Councilor Austin Sass suggested directing the cannabis subcommittee, which he and Councilor Brooke Laine lead, to try to craft a revised ordinance before council's next meeting.

"I am fully committed to putting whatever hours are necessary to get that done," Sass said.

Mayor Pro Tem Tom Davis said he would support that proposal. Compromise on the part of those involved will be critical in order to move forward, he said.

Mayor Wendy David agreed with Sass' suggestion, adding she wanted to have as much information as possible at the next meeting.

"These are big decisions that will affect our community for decades to come," she said.

The subcommittee will hold a public forum Oct. 8 from 9 a.m. to noon in City Council Chambers.

CANNABIS SUBCOMMITTEE FORUM

When: 9 a.m.-noon, Monday, Oct. 8

Where: Council Chambers, 1901 Airport Road