Our View: Grass Valley’s pot process just needs a few tweaks

With the legalization of the cannabis industry, it was only a matter of time before pot came to shove.

An issue that threatened to divide our state, as both sides made predictions that fell through, has mostly dwindled since the 2016 passage of Proposition 64, and its implementation on Jan. 1, 2018.

Look around: the legions of middle schoolers toking up behind the convenience store failed to materialize. On the other hand, the state fell short in its estimates about how much tax revenue would appear once legal pot became the law of the land.

And since it is legal, why shouldn’t local towns allow cannabis businesses? Their money is, well, green, too.

That’s the issue currently before the Grass Valley City Council, which appears more than ready to approve a swath of legal marijuana businesses. They include up to two dispensaries, three delivery services, two testing labs, five distributors, two nurseries and 10 manufacturers.

In a time when cities across the state are expecting lower transient occupancy tax revenue, it’s no surprise that elected officials see cannabis as a new source of cash.

Elevation 2477’, Nevada City’s sole dispensary, has been in business for over a year, and there appears to be very little problem with it. Before the pandemic, its interior was clean and well lit. Now employees take your order outside, and deliver product to your car.

Those transactions are a far cry from what authorities have said was a pot deal gone wrong last month that left a woman dead and six people, one of them facing a murder charge, accused in the fatal shooting.

We still have a long way to go before the price of legal cannabis makes illegal pot not worth it. Until it’s sanctioned on the federal level, there will always be a black market.

And the federal government, slow as molasses, has a long road to travel before we get to that point.

This community, region and state can nudge Washington, D.C., on this path. Not through our words, but our actions.

Nevada County proved it was thorough, and tenacious, during its years-long saga to develop cannabis regulations. It set a standard — drudgery though it may be — of ensuring that every voice is heard before shaping local law.

Starting on its own path, Grass Valley should do the same.

The city has determined it will allow only a certain number of each type of business. Right now, because of the city’s population, it can have only one dispensary. Two would be the max.

Prospective businesses will submit applications that a committee, whose members will be appointed by the city manager, will screen. Businesses that pass the first hurdle will advance to a more formal application process.

Why let the city manager appoint these committee members? Diana Gamzon, with the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance, rightly points out that City Council members, not the city manager, should appoint people to the committee. It’s the council that’s elected by the people, and its members would ensure more diversity.

Also, why limit the number of cannabis businesses? Is there a legitimate fear that pot shops would crowd out all other businesses? If there’s concern over their proximity to schools, daycares and similar businesses, why not state that they can’t be within 1,000 feet of them? That way, the free market will determine the winners instead of the government, and local coffers might be healthier for it.

Grass Valley is on the right track: get the community involved, hold open meetings and take it slow. Its process just needs a few tweaks.

Once those are done, you’ll see this new industry grow.

The weekly Our View editorial represents the consensus opinion of Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at [email protected]

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