Nevada City planning commission clears clog in cannabis permits | TheUnion.com

Nevada City planning commission clears clog in cannabis permits

It might have been the first time in Nevada City Planning Commission history the audience erupted in applause over the approval of two business licenses.

The enthusiasm is understandable when you factor in the lengthy delays some of these medical marijuana manufacturing applicants have been facing.

Take Emerald Bay Wellness, one of two permits OK'd at Thursday's commission meeting.

Co-owner Casey Angeley was almost giddy with relief, saying they had been waiting for this since they first submitted their application in December.

"We had hoped to be on the January meeting agenda," she said.

The Angeleys were placed instead on the February agenda, and then had to re-submit a redacted application for public review, pushing their review to March, Casey Angeley said.

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Potential conflicts of interest on the planning commission then derailed a number of permit approvals.

In January, commissioner Jason Rainey, who serves as president of the board of directors for Growing Community — an organization that applied for a medical marijuana dispensary license but wasn't chosen from a pool of three candidates — abstained from voting on a license for the Searls Group to operate a medical marijuana edibles, beverages and oil manufacturing business. Rainey did, however, vote in favor of awarding Floracy, another medical marijuana manufacturing business, a permit to operate on Bost Avenue.

Emerald Bay Wellness, CBD Power Bar and Cannafornia Edibles, all at 138 New Mohawk Road, were on the Feb. 5 agenda, but their applications were postponed until the March 15 meeting.

Multiple delays in process

Then, in March, Rainey and fellow commissioner Dan Thiem recused themselves — Thiem because of the proximity of his business, Inn Town Campground, to New Mohawk Road. The commission then did not have a quorum of three members and a special commission meeting was scheduled for March 29.

But then the applicants were informed that due to an unforeseen absence, there would not be enough commissioners for a quorum on that date either.

The continuing delays prompted permit applicant Basil McMahon to go the city council meeting on March 28 with a plea. McMahon said he understood the reasons for the recusals and the fact that commissioners were volunteers who could not always attend every meeting.

"These things happen," he said, adding that the extended delays are having a significant negative material impact.

"It is not every day that you find businesses pleading to be taxed and regulated, yet here we find ourselves," McMahon said in the letter he presented to the council. He urged council members to consider appointing alternates to the planning commission.

At the March 29 planning commission meeting, McMahon asked for a special date to be set ahead of the regularly scheduled meeting on April 19.

CBD Power Bar applicant Jared Steinman urged the commissioners to get the applicants "through the pipeline" so they could start generating income and revenue for Nevada City.

Thomas Angeley pointed out his prospective business signed a lease in November — one of the permit conditions.

"This is costing us $10,000 a month, while we wait for an answer," he said. "We're young entrepreneurs trying to start a small business."

The planning commission, sympathetic to the frustration in the room, rescheduled for April 5.

Smooth sailing at last

"We have a quorum," commission chairman Stuart Lauters said at the start of Thursday's session, with Rainey and Thiem both absent.

Cannafornia representatives did not attend due to lease issues. But both CBD Power Bars and Emerald Bay Wellness sailed through the approval process.

Commissioner Josie Andrews complimented Steinman on the thoroughness of his presentation, leading him to quip, "I've had plenty of time to put it together." Commissioner Steffen Snell echoed her comments, telling the applicants he had very few questions because they had been so thorough.

Steinman said the delay has had a significant financial impact on his business, which has been in limbo since he submitted his permit application on Jan. 2.

But, he said, the postponements had some benefits.

"The process actually helped me better prepare and gave the public more time to understand each of the applicants," Steinman said.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.