Cannabis microbusinesses

Cannabis products on display at Harvest Corner in Banning.

Concerned that Banning was being selective and “picking winners and losers” between potential successful businesses, Banning’s Mayor Pro Tem David Happe insisted on his pro-business stance in a continuation of a hearing Tuesday evening.

“We have an opportunity to strike here while the iron is hot,” Happe said, referring to securing an amendment to the municipal code that would allow for cannabis microbusinesses to set up shop and attract some of the business that is instead being monopolized by Desert Hot Springs and Cathedral City.

His only concern was ensuring that a 200-foot buffer be effective if a microbusiness has a retail front, which many of them usually do.

A cannabis microbusiness, according to the city, is a commercial cannabis business that engages in at least three of four cannabis operations: retail sales, cultivation of less than 10,000 square feet of canopy space (anything larger constitutes a commercial cannabis cultivation enterprise), distribution, and manufacturing on the same premises.

“What we’ve learned is that cannabis is not the boogieman” naysayers have portrayed, Happe said. “This is going to be a long process” of trial and error for the city as it delves into supporting the industry, suggesting that microbusinesses will be pristine outfits with security that will provide extra pairs of eyes on the community.

Councilman Alberto Sanchez wasn’t buying it, declaring that microbusinesses are simply “a workaround to retailers,” of which three dispensaries are currently allowed in the city, though only two that have pulled permits have opened. “It’s just a method of putting more retailers in the city, and that doesn’t sit well with me,” Sanchez said. “When it comes to growing, you can grow your own thing, but you can only grow seven plants” legally, and noted that microbusinesses with retail components do not necessarily have to sell products produced on their own.

“The restrictions the city set is to protect the residents of Banning,” Sanchez said.

He recommended a joint meeting with the planning commission, which had to provide recommendations for the council to approve.

Sanchez was the only one to vote against approving of the measure (Councilman Kyle Pingree was not present during that portion of the meeting), which passed 3-1.

The city removed a proposed cap on the number of microbusinesses that would be allowed, letting the market determine sustainability of success; will impose a buffer, preventing retail operations from taking place within 200 feet of any residential areas; and removed a restriction that would have made retail storefronts “delivery only.”

Staff Writer David James Heiss may be reached at dheiss@recordgazette.net , and messages may be left at (951) 849-4586 x114.

Staff Writer David James Heiss may be reached at dheiss@recordgazette.net , or by calling (951) 849-4586 x114.

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