Rush job

The council majority had its mind set on pot—no real facts or discussion needed

When it comes to wishes of their constituents, the members of the City Council’s majority don’t want to listen. The CN&R has watched the slow evolution on that front since the 2014 election, and it has become increasingly obvious under Mayor Sean Morgan’s leadership. Take Tuesday night’s rush job as a case in point.

The main item of discussion was a proposed marijuana ordinance that will not only ban commercial activity involving the drug but also ban outdoor growing of it for personal and medicinal use. The council had a choice: Either adopt the ordinance as is, or take the advice of the Planning Commission and separate the two issues in order to look further into the implications of moving all growing indoors.

The staff report on the matter, put together by the City Attorney’s Office, gave little credence to the justification for banning outdoor grows, which is that they invite crime. Do they? We’re not entirely convinced, given that the statistics provided by the Chico Police Department do not differentiate between crimes associated with outdoor grows and any other crimes. Then there was the code enforcement log, ostensibly presented as evidence that outdoor grows are hard work for that department. However, it didn’t indicate whether the complaints listed were actual code violations or just neighbors annoyed with the smell. The fact that names and addresses were included in the report seems negligent as well, as it basically alerts criminals of potential pot-growing locations.

Several members of the public spoke during the hearing, asking the council to wait until further research could be done on environmental repercussions. Others suggested the city allow dispensaries as a way of minimizing individual gardens.

Alas, only the liberal minority seemed to be listening. Council members Ann Schwab, Karl Ory and Randall Stone each asked several questions of staff, who seemed less than well-versed on the matter. And Morgan was hot to put the matter to a vote. Indeed, what the city ended up with was a rushed decision based on questionable evidence—a decision that virtually ignored public input and the recommendations from the Planning Commission.

That’s no way to set policy.