About 55 people showed up at Redding's City Hall Thursday, many to clear the air about how, and even if, the city should regulate both personal and commercial marijuana grows.
"I'm quite aware our community is divided on that issue," said Barry DeWalt, Redding's city attorney and organizer of Thursday's panel discussion with Mandy Arons, former owner of medical marijuana cooperative All Earth Remedies, and Larry Vaupel, director of the city's development services department. He said he wanted the audience to "give us an idea of what should or should not be considered."
At a forum seeking public input on how Redding should tackle marijuana grows, activist James Benno gives the city a piece of his mind.
Many members of the public were happy to oblige. Most peppered the panel with comments favoring the city loosening its rules, which currently only allow personal grows of six plants indoors for medical marijuana patients.
Some speakers also expressed concerns about whether the city will end up with too much latitude — or too many regulations.
Landlord Bob Small told the panel he worried the city might force him to let tenants grow inside — under Proposition 64, which passed in November, adults can grow up to six plants at home.
DeWalt said he's never heard of a city doing that while Vaupel said whether to allow grows is up to landlords.
"You can prohibit that in your properties," Vaupel said.
Another man, who identified himself with a false name as Mr. Charles because he grows clone marijuana plants "at an undisclosed location," told the panel he wants to become a legitimate business. But he worried the fees — one DeWalt cited for commercial cultivators in Sacramento was more than $10,000 — could price out many small-scale growers.
"(That's) the best way to make a robust and healthy black market," he said.
Those fees are based on, and go toward, the costs of code enforcement, Vaupel said.
Cathy Grindstaff, with A Sobering Choice, said she worried the city allowing marijuana grows would make cannabis more acceptable among children.
Betty Cunningham, with Shasta County Chemical People, had the same concerns as Grindstaff, and she also worried about commercial grows' tolls on the environment, electrical use and water usage, especially in a drought.
Redding exports electricity, so it has plenty to spare, DeWalt said. But DeWalt added that her concerns about the water use were pertinent because state restrictions on water use during droughts typically apply across the board to all counties.
Others, however, implored the staff to explore the industry and the jobs it could bring, including James Benno, a pro-cannabis activist who has clashed with municipal governments several times. The most recent case saw him acquitted of all but one charge. He will be retried on that one.
He threatened to sue if authorities go after his garden again.
Former supervisor candidate Jerome Venus said the budding weed industry could bring badly needed jobs to a community long beset by economic stagnation and the loss of its prime industry.
"We are becoming a retirement community, and I'll say it, a welfare community," Venus said.
Owner of 530 Collective Jamie Garzot said that while the economic potential of recreational cannabis is far from certain, she estimates to see demand expand 25 percent to 50 percent after retail outlets begin selling.
Nonetheless, the state is expecting enough windfalls to give regulators serious resources, said Arons, former owner of the All Earth Remedies. That should help keep the grows from spiraling out of control, one factor that led to several anti-marijuana backlashes by Shasta County officials and voters.
A second workshop is planned for mid-July to examine other marijuana businesses that the state will license and regulate, though local entities still can have final say over what, if anything, to allow, DeWalt said.