Angels Camp, CA – City of Angels Camp officials attempting to keep an open mind about potentially allowing limited marijuana businesses found themselves in the crosshairs of a vocal, pro-ban audience ahead of a critical vote.
Speaking with Clarke Broadcasting the day after Monday night’s public hearing over the city council’s unanimous immediate adoption of an urgency ordinance strictly regulating personal marijuana grows and banning potential related commercial activities, Angels Camp Mayor Scott Behiel says the message came through loud and clear to him that the citizens are not the least bit interested in creating a business climate for cannabis.
Behiel confides he took a lot of heat for the position he held going into the session. “My main concerns were public safety…if there was a way to benefit from the cannabis industry without suffering a lot of the harms that marijuana brings.” Continuing, he explains, “The idea to ban cultivation, productions and sales but potentially allow some of the ‘back office’ [businesses]…testing labs, home deliveries, distribution and manufacturing of marijuana-related products to take it off the streets but still create revenue to bolster the General Fund to add police, enforcement and education.”
Swayed By Police Chief Comments, Crowd Intensity
He says he was swayed by Angels Camp Police Chief Todd Fordahl’s comments at the hearing, to which Behiel guesstimates some 120 to 150 people showed up. “He was very clear that he did not want anything to do with marijuana in the city that it was a violation of federal law and put him and his force in conflict with state and federal law,” Behiel recalls.
According to the mayor, Prop 64 failed in Angels Camp by nearly a nearly 15 percent margin and he further describes the climate of the turnout at Bret Harte High Theatre as almost mob-like in its intensity. “Everybody stood up very loudly…some were quite obnoxious, as a matter of fact…most made good and valid points that they don’t want it in their town and I understand it.” He described the audience as representing a good cross section of residents and business owners.
While there was a scattering of cannabis industry supporters, including a couple of applicants proposing cannabis businesses within city limits, Behiel points to the fact that none of this contingent chose to speak up. Given the overall group dynamics, “It would have taken a whole lot of courage,” he admits.
Restrictive Grow Rules, Delivery Company Stipulations
Along with maintaining the strict personal grow regulations for those of legal age of up to the state-allowed six plants as it was outlined in the draft ordinance (reviewable here), the council voted to ban all commercial activity except for marijuana deliveries.
Behiel calls the move to allow these a compromise since there are no dispensaries allowed within city limits. “The logic was that if people are going to use cannabis perhaps it is safer to have a professional licensed delivery company that has been checked out by the Angels Camp Police Department,” he maintains. Allowing deliveries, he suggests, might also potentially dissuade some people from potentially fire unsafe attempts to grow their own indoors — and help others to avoid driving back from a dispensary run with a buzz going.
However under the new urgency ordinance drivers have to register and be fingerprinted by the Angels Camp Police Department before they are clear to deliver within city limits. “We have to make sure that they do not have criminal records, and…they must be 21 years old, even though the state says 18, I think we upped it to 21,” Behiel explains. Among other restrictions, he adds, “They cannot carry more than a pound of product on them and there cannot be a cash transaction – the transaction has to be dealt with some other way. It has to be delivered to someone who is 21 years old — who is at home – it cannot be left on the porch and it has to be done with unmarked cars, so we do not have cars with marijuana logos on the sides of them going through the city.”
Urgency Ordinance Parameters
Behiel says the council is required to meet again within 45 days to extend the ordinance with or without alterations. In all, it can be extended for a period of up to two years at which time the city must be ready to enact a permanent set of local rules. “That will give us time to look and study a few other cities are doing and what the state comes up with,” Behiel explains. He admits that, given what seems to be the current, widely held public sentiment, “To get any cannabis activities allowed in the city is going to be a pretty tough battle.”
Reminding residents that a ban does not rid the city of drug-related issues, Behiel points to Angels Camp’s skeleton police force, limited budget, and rampant regional issues with opioids and meth along with pot. “I hope that each of the residents are vigilant and…if you see something, say something.”