CA: Redding Preps For Commercial Cannabis After Council OK’s Rules

Photo Credit: Nanette Gonzalez

Redding is just more than a month away from starting to allow recreational cannabis businesses in city limits.

The City Council on Tuesday approved rules for commercial cannabis after a 15-month process of public meetings and careful crafting of 71 pages of rules controlling where, when and how cannabis businesses can operate in Redding.

The council approved the rules, which take effect in late April, after about 30 people spent more than two hours speaking on the matter. Councilman Brent Weaver cast the lone dissenting vote.

“I just don’t think this is the right way to look for additional revenue,” Weaver said. “People know that I’m passionate about finding new revenue to solve public safety but I’m concerned about the additional public safety issues that will spill over as a result of this.

“Also, I’ve mentioned in the past my volunteer service coaching at the high school, being around these kids and my worry that we’re going to continue to lessen the effects and making it OK to use something like this. With medical marijuana, I’ve seen first-hand how that’s helped friends and family members. We’re not debating medical marijuana tonight, I think we’re debating if we want to make money off of taxing pot.”

What else people said

Tuesday’s discussion on the business rules, like countless cannabis debates at local governments in recent years, became a proxy for opinions on the substance itself.

On one side, opponents warned of negative consequences of the drug. County health officials argued for strict advertising and packaging requirements for cannabis products to limit the appeal to children.

“We want to prevent Joe Camel from coming back,” said Terri Fields Hosler, public health branch director for the Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency.

Others were outright opposed to the city allowing cannabis at all.

“I think what you need to do is slow down,” Kay Wilson said. “It doesn’t have to be passed tonight.”

On other side, supporters argued for allowing outdoor grows, banned by the new rules.

“Sun-grown is less expensive to produce,” Vanessa Volpe said. “Outdoor growers are able to cultivate their crops with minimal overhead, less equipment, less electricity and it doesn’t mean it’s lower quality medicine at all, it can better than indoor. This plant used to be solely grown outside.”

Others wanted a residency requirement for local businesses to keep local growers from being crowded out by larger commercial growers moving into Redding. City Attorney Barry DeWalt said the requirement, which wasn’t adopted in the city’s rules, raised both constitutional and practical concerns.

“If we’re going to permit cannabis retailers, the underlying theory is we want the best of the best,” DeWalt said. “Giving preference in this situation might not give us the best actors.”

What the rules say

The City Council on Tuesday night passed the rules as presented to them with one addition: a required health warning sign for retailers.

“This would be a proposed sign to be placed in a retailer lobby that says ‘Not for kids or teens. Starting marijuana use young or using frequently may lead to problem use and according to the Centers for Disease Control, may harm developing teen brains. Government health warning.’ This is language proposed by our county public health department,” Mayor Kristen Schreder said.

Indoor growing – which the city can’t ban because state law allows growing up to six plants indoors – will require a permit.

“We expect that’s going to be a relatively simple permit,” DeWalt said.

The city will allow up to 10 retail dispensaries through a competitive bidding process, though City Manager Barry Tippin has broad authority to limit the number and location of those businesses.

Other cannabis businesses – growers, manufacturers, labs and others – don’t have the same limits on numbers but can only go in industrial or heavy commercial zones, though the latter requires a use permit.

Dispensaries are banned within 1,000 feet of a school while other businesses must have a 600-foot buffer. Dispensaries can’t share a wall with another business – effectively barring them from many strip malls and shopping centers – and are also banned downtown.

What happens now?

City officials are working to set permit and licensing fees for businesses.

Those fees should in place by the time the rules take effect in late April, DeWalt said.

Applications for city licenses could start at the same time.

The City Council wants at least annual reviews of the rules to see whether further changes are necessary.

“We see things that need to be fixed and tweaked, we’ll be back before that,” DeWalt said.

Officials are also crafting tax measures for voter approval in November. The city will propose an excise tax on retail sales and a separate tax for cultivators based on the amount being grown, DeWalt has said.