South Lake Tahoe City Council to host workshop on cannabis regulations | TahoeDailyTribune.com

South Lake Tahoe City Council to host workshop on cannabis regulations

South Lake Tahoe City Council will host a workshop on cannabis regulations on Feb. 20.

After months of meetings, a committee has put forward recommendations to gradually establish a recreational cannabis industry in South Lake Tahoe. Whether or not those recommendations are adopted remains an unanswered question.

City Council hopes to move closer to an answer after Feb. 20, when the city will host a workshop intended to gather public and staff input on the matter.

Council landed on that decision Tuesday, Feb. 6, after hearing regulatory recommendations from the city's 15-member cannabis committee — which council tasked with delving into all things cannabis and crafting recommendations. Councilmembers Brooke Laine and Tom Davis both served on the committee.

As stated Tuesday, the committee suggests starting with a pilot program, which would allow some cannabis businesses to open under approved development agreements.

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By using that process, the city could test the waters and collect revenues before approving a final ordinance that would establish a comprehensive regulatory framework — a process that would assuredly include putting a sales tax question before voters.

In presenting the recommendations, committee member Devin Middlebrook stated that the suggestions from the committee were a starting point. The city may very well have to revisit certain subjects in the future should it move forward with the recommendations as presented.

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As part of the pilot program, the committee recommended allowing up to three retail licenses. According to Middlebrook, the state recommends one retail license per 10,000 people. Given South Lake Tahoe's population and frequent influx of visitors, the committee, which does not want to see an uncontrolled proliferation of pot shops, agreed three was a reasonable number.

Each retail license holder also would be required to hold a medical license in order to meet patient needs.

The recommendations would allow for delivery, but it would have to be associated with a storefront.

The committee recommended banning outdoor cultivation, and limiting the size of licensed greenhouses to 5,000 square feet.

Under the recommendations, manufacturing would be limited to not allow for on-site extraction. Distribution licenses also would be limited.

Perhaps the most contested recommendation was the committee's suggestion to not allow microbusiness licenses — an umbrella license issued by the California Bureau of Cannabis Control that covers a minimum of three cannabis related activities.

For example, a cannabis business with a microbusiness license could be involved in cultivation, retail and distribution without having to get an individual license for each activity.

Since the committee was recommending limits on distribution and manufacturing licenses, it decided against including microbusiness licenses in the recommendation, Middlebrook explained. The exclusion of the microbusiness licenses would not prevent a cannabis business owner from obtaining different licenses, meaning one business could still be licensed for multiple activities.

Cody Bass, executive director of Tahoe Wellness Cooperative, South Lake Tahoe's lone medical marijuana dispensary, said for the most part the recommendations were "on point." However, he pointed to the recommendations on distribution and on the microbusiness licenses and stated that they would likely lead to greater expenses for local businesses — expenses that would be passed on to consumers and likely drive them to the black market.

In explaining the timeline the committee was hoping for, Laine said they hoped to bring an ordinance before the Planning Commission at its meeting in early March. The hope, Laine said, would be that they would allow for public feedback while keeping the issue moving.

However, councilmember Austin Sass said he felt that singular aspects, such as the number of licenses and acceptable locations, should be discussed in greater detail. Sass stated he had differing thoughts on some of the recommendations.

Davis said he also didn't agree 100 percent with all the recommendations, but that he thought 90 – 95 percent of the work was done.

"We still have some work to do," he said.

Ultimately council landed on Tuesday, Feb. 20, at 5 p.m. for a public workshop on the recommendations. The city will look for a bigger venue to host the meeting and publish those details once they're finalized.