Conversation continues concerning proposed cannabis ordinance

The time frame for the city to develop its own cannabis ordinance before state regulations automatically apply is narrowing and, not surprisingly, at the last meeting of the Portola City Council discussion revolved around of the creation of Portola’s cannabis ordinance.

Public comment

The meeting opened with public comment by Terry Woods, who read a letter to the editor published in the Portola Reporter to a slightly bemused council. Woods was followed by regular attendee Larry Douglas, who spoke of his concern of city management and stated that he was of the opinion that city leaders had “a wishbone, but not a backbone.”

BJ Pearson then approached the front of the room, stating that at the meeting, which resulted in the appointment of Debra Reynolds as new council member, a document was mentioned that concerned council member Bill Powers. Pearson went on to lambast Powers as being “too sensitive,” telling Powers to “grow up and become a man.”

This sharp commentary addressed to Powers was followed by a brief comment from Lake Davis resident Christi Goodman, who stated that she supports the work the city council is doing and added that she was sorry that Powers was offended in public.

Public comment was closed and Mayor Pat Morton moved on to city council communications, with council member Phil Oels opening. Oels commented on the sale of the hand-crafted wooden swing set during Railroad Days, which resulted in a donation to the Portola Wellness Center. He also spent time at the FireWise booth and participated in the 21-gun salute at the Charles O. Sweetwood rededication ceremony Sept. 9. Oels also noted that he and council member Tom Cooley had met earlier that day with Big Fish Creations in ongoing discussions surrounding the city’s marketing focus.

Council member Cooley stated that he had worn the “most absurd hat” during the Railroad Days parade, and was also a part of a GoBiz meeting at City Hall on Sept. 1. Cooley remarked upon his attendance at the PSREC annual member meeting held Sept. 9 and his experience watching the demonstration of some pothole repair equipment —  a masticator and a “portable asphalt plant that can fill pot holes on smaller repairs.”

Cooley noted his hope that FEMA allow for a potential monthly rental reimbursement for the road repair equipment, stating, “This is durable equipment and would be of great benefit to the city — a real opportunity for us.” Cooley also explained that Public Works Director Todd Roberts has been in close communication with FEMA, working toward needed street repairs.

Cooley commented on his role in the recent ad-hoc committee meeting with Oels regarding the city’s contract with Big Fish, stating that it was agreed that Big Fish would be cutting back on some projects as the consultant has already gone over the contracted hours during the process of creating video clips for the city. Cooley added that they had very positive discussions on how to make use of Big Fish’s services in an effort to promote Firewise activities.

Council member Bill Powers then updated the council on his recent activities, including participation at the FireWise booth during Railroad Days. He mentioned a conversation he had to promote a decorative piece for “FireWise Superstars,” which would go to locals that participate in FireWise activities such as weed abatement.

Powers also spoke about his newest endeavor: the Portola High School seventh period “Community Involvement” class, which will not only get students involved in the community, but also give hands-on experience with life skills.

Powers mentioned the new asphalt equipment and his attendance at the machine demonstration, saying that the salesman estimated that the use of the machines would complete work about 10 times faster than a hand crew.

At this point in the meeting, a thunderstorm started to shake the room and the power went out, but lack of power didn’t stop proceedings. Without skipping a beat, Powers also spoke on a topic that gave him what he termed “a visceral reaction.”

“There was another shooting near Spokane in Washington at a school, and of course this triggers concerns in all schools, especially in the USA,” Powers said. “Tomorrow at PHS there will be a campus shooter protocol training. It used to be that it was recommended to shelter in place, but now teachers are being told and trained to fight with everything they’ve got.”

Council member Reynolds added to the council comment portion of the meeting, noting that she had participated at Railroad Days, stopped by the Sweetwood Rededication ceremony and sat in on the asphalt equipment demonstration. “My main concern with the equipment is the cost of maintaining it into the future, and whether that will be affordable,” Reynolds noted.

Morton closed the council comments, saying, “I also participated in Railroad Days, riding in the parade as well as assisting with the pedal car races. I also attended the last music in the park of the summer, the PVFD breakfast, and the PSREC annual member meeting.” At this time, the electricity in the room came back to life, to the laughter of the room at the timing of Morton’s statement.

“I also attended the Sweetwood rededication ceremony, and read a proclamation that declares September 9 as Charles O. Sweetwood Day in the city of Portola, along with attendance at the Rotary Fly-In Pancake Breakfast and attendance at the asphalt equipment demo, and at the demo I was very impressed with the machines,” Morton concluded.

With City Manager Robert Meacher absent, City Attorney Steve Gross commented on the asphalt equipment, stating that he hoped that the technology had improved since last he examined the machinery.

CSO Chuck Brashear commented briefly that he had 30 more abatements, three cars removed, and “six more at Nicole’s — it’s been busy.”

Mayor Morton then moved to ratify the proclamation that declared September 9 as Charles O. Sweetwood Day, and all moved in favor of the ratification, creating a new holiday in the City.

Cannabis ordinance

The remainder of the meeting revolved around cannabis. Gross went through the draft ordinance he created to generate meaningful discussion, pointing out that there are very few council meetings left in which to finalize any decisions before the Jan. 1, 2018, deadline wherein the State of California would, by default, have full jurisdiction.

Gross stated that the ordinance should be ready for a second reading by the first meeting in November. Oels noted that medical marijuana patients should be able to have access to their medication, with agreement from the council, and the council as a whole leaned toward a full-stop, no-commercial grow stance.

The topic was debated heatedly among constituents as Morton opened the floor to public comment. Comments ranging from opinions that medical marijuana was nothing more than a money making business to statements that inferred that once marijuana is let into a community, it’s difficult to get rid of.

Oels interjected, “Today, we are on the frontier of the wild, wild west,” with Powers commenting that in his opinion, in 10 years things would likely settle down and that cannabis would likely be treated more like alcohol.

Comments flew thick and fast on growers, taxation, delivery into the city and law enforcement. “We need a responsible community that assists the Sheriff,” Douglas commented.

Woods pointed out that she has nothing against cannabis, but she has concerns about those that may be allergic, specifically to the smoke, despite the Prop. 64 ruling that states there is to be no public consumption of cannabis.

Reynolds spoke up, asking the room to think about pushing growers indoors, not only due to risk of exposure to children, but also in consideration of the old homes with old wiring that may not handle a grow well. “I also want to ask how we would attempt to control chemical use, and how growers could potentially affect the ground water,” Reynolds said.

After more discussion, the council decided to revisit the topic at its next meeting, with recommendations to amend the current draft ordinance to allow for medical delivery, with room for changes in the coming weeks as the council sifts through the finer points of creating the ordinance.

The City Council welcomes the community to its meetings, which are regularly held on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m. For more information, City Hall can be reached at 832-6803.