Nevada City Council moves forward with marijuana dispensary process | TheUnion.com

Nevada City Council moves forward with marijuana dispensary process

A well-attended meeting of the Nevada City council brought no naysayers from the public to a historic decision regarding a medicinal cannabis dispensary within the city.

The proceedings were held only in regards to a medicinal dispensary, and any other uses that might have been suggested were quickly dispelled by Mayor Evans Phelps.

"We are talking strictly a medical dispensary despite the outcome of the 2016 election," Phelps said. "This would not be a head shop, we are not talking about that at all."

Many in attendance spoke of having to travel out of the community to get their medication and weren't happy with spending their dollars elsewhere.

Longtime area cannabis activist Patricia Smith changed her plans to make it to the council meeting.

"I was supposed to be someplace else, but I canceled because this is too important," Smith said before the meeting.

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Smith, who says she's been pushing for marijuana reform for the past four decades, approached the podium with concerns of her own.

"My hope is that instead of one, they will ask for two," Smith said of the permitting process. "Having only one permit available creates a monopoly scenario that isn't good for patients."

Smith's other big concern was a preference towards only allowing local owner-operators to set up shop.

"I've seen it before in other communities, as soon as they open up the process, carpetbaggers from out of town will come in," she said. "Some will consider it an inconvenience for having a dispensary, but this is homegrown product that benefits our community."

Heather Burke, a Nevada City attorney, was one of those in attendance speaking in favor.

"I'm honored to represent numerous medical marijuana cultivators, growers, and manufacturers," Burke said. "I commend you today for taking on this issue, it is very courageous to be the first city in the county to allow this."

Burke echoed Smith's concerns regarding local control and ties to the local community and suggested looking into those ties.

Harry Bennett, a local grower who described himself as "one of those local guys" spoke in favor as well.

"We intend to apply if it is passed," he said, adding, "I think it (the ordinance) could be tweaked a little to our town."

Amy Johnson, also a medicinal marijuana user, described the disconnect between what is allowed in the community and what actually occurs here.

She spoke in favor of allowing a local dispensary and described a visit to a San Jose dispensary when, upon showing her ID that stated she was from Nevada City, she was asked by the budtender, "Why are you here? That's where we get our stuff from."

Johnson's comments received applause from the crowd that was largely in favor of proceeding with the crafting of the ordinance.

Councilmember Reinette Senum was supportive, described the healing properties of the plant, and even mentioned giving it to her cat, who was described as being cranky.

"I think we should unanimously move forward with this," Phelps said.

The item passed on a 5-0 vote and received a large round of applause. A draft ordinance will now be referred to the Planning Commission for review and recommendation.

To contact Staff Writer Elias Funez, email efunez@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.