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Oroville council moves forward on commercial cannabis pending commission input

The Oroville City Council’s joint session on commercial cannabis relegate the Planning Commission—with Vice Chair Carl Durling, center, and Chair Damon Robison, right—to deliberations on the side.

The Oroville City Council’s joint session on commercial cannabis relegate the Planning Commission—with Vice Chair Carl Durling, center, and Chair Damon Robison, right—to deliberations on the side.

Photo by Evan Tuchinsky

As seats in Oroville City Council chambers started to fill for an unusual meeting Tuesday night (Aug. 7), Carl Durling slowly but deliberately crossed in front of the dais to approach City Attorney Scott Huber.

Durling, vice chair of the city’s Planning Commission, was there in an official capacity. Friday, the council called for a joint session with the commission even though the commission already had a meeting scheduled for two nights later.

The matter before both bodies: commercial cannabis. Per the agenda, the council had asked the Planning Commission to evaluate a set of land-use regulations, then planned to vote on those regulations.

Durling huddled with Huber, speaking in a tone audible to attendees nearby, if they happened to notice.

“I didn’t have a whole lot of time to prepare for this,” Durling remarked.

Two hours later, his colleagues openly declared the same thing. One after another they said they did not have ample opportunity to assess all the documents involved, since the city had given them updates that very day (see materials at Several commissioners cited challenges sorting through contradictory information.

Ultimately, the commission voted unanimously to table the deliberation for 30 days, with the goal of gaining more information from city staff and interested parties.

In the recess after the vote, Chair Damon Robison told the CN&R that he felt the deferral was a “very likely outcome coming in, knowing they [fellow commissioners] always want to review the information as much as they can. It’s not uncommon for us on a very important decision to postpone it and take our time.”

Council members had set the agenda while Mayor Linda Dahlmeier was in Europe; she and Councilman Scott Thomson have been staunch opponents of allowing commercial cannabis. Dahlmaier, still traveling Wednesday morning, told the CN&R by Facebook message that she watched the meeting online and called it “such a sham and a shame … all done in a rush, behind the scenes and with no proper input.”

Vice Mayor Janet Goodson (whom the CN&R could not reach for follow-up comment by deadline) reopened the meeting after the brief recess, and the council deliberated on two ordinances that would codify the regulations. They didn’t hear from the public then, as they’d consolidated the comment period into the joint session, with speakers limited to 90 seconds apiece.

Twenty people spoke, several multiple times (once per ordinance). Roughly two-thirds opposed—those included Dave Pittman, former councilman and fire chief; and Candace Grubbs, Butte County’s clerk-recorder.

After the comments and the commission decision, only one council member in the majority had any reservation: about a provision allowing minors into dispensaries, when accompanied by their parents or guardians. “That has to go,” Art Hatley said, “or I won’t vote for it.” That provision went, and with a pair of 5-to-1 votes—Thomson dissenting—the council introduced both ordinances allowing commercial cannabis.

Rules include limiting the number of dispensaries to three, located farther than 600 feet from schools and 1,000 feet from each other; requiring both land-use permits and cannabis business permits, the latter needing renewal every year; standards for odor control and security, and a prohibition on outdoor cultivation.

Tom Lando, interim city administrator, told the CN&R by phone Wednesday morning that he understands the council intends to wait for the commission’s input before bringing the ordinances back for final consideration. The council does have the ability to instruct the commission to meet sooner.