Oroville’s City Council moved a baby step closer to allowing marijuana related businesses, including dispensaries, to open up shop.
Casting aside a maximum effort by religious leaders and some elected officials, the council moved forward with proposals that could lead to marijuana being available for purchase legally in Oroville for the first time.
Lengthy, and frequently contentious, officials moved the meeting to the Oroville State Theatre to accommodate a crowd of roughly 150 people, many determined to make their cases.
The council wound up approving a $40,000 contract for outside help with an ordinance that would lay down ground rules for future marijuana businesses.
The vote was 7-2 with Mayor Linda Dahlmeier and Councilman Scott Thomson objecting.
The vote came just before midnight – and about an hour and a half after Dahlmeier unsuccessfully sought to send the issue to voters in the form of a council-backed initiative.
City Administrator Don Rust said the council would have more flexibility if it pursued an ordinance. He said once approved, an initiative can only be altered or repealed by another initiative.
The council heard hours of passionate statements. Both County Supervisor Larry Wahl and Congressman Doug LaMalfa spoke against the effort.
Many opponents warned of the damage to Oroville’s reputation or of outside elements. Charles Colombo of Oroville was among them. He urged the council to ignore the lure of potential tax revenue.
“I think more about the effect that it’ll have on the people of this community, and the types of people it will bring into our community,” Colombo said.
Oroville resident Kenneth Paul said marijuana damages people.
“I’ve seen a lot of talented young men and women, people in the baseball and softball community who’ve gotten involved with marijuana at a young age. They’re now sleeping on people’s couches, they’re homeless,” he said.
Paul said the impacts are life changing.
“Sixteen, 17 year olds that have kids now because they started it through smoking marijuana in a group,” he said.
Meanwhile, proponents noted recreational use is now legal for adults in California. They also pointed to potential revenue, dismissed any likeness to hard drugs, and cited medical benefits.
John Miller-George of Paradise said marijuana was the only thing that gives his elderly father, a Navy veteran, relief from debilitating pain.
“The only thing, and the VA tried lots of stuff,” he said.
Miller-George said it’s hard to argue with results.
“I broke the law and I am proud I did it,” he said.
Clearly disappointed by the outcome, several opponents vowed to launch a referendum overturning the ordinance, should it ever come to pass.