Sonoma Dispensary - Sonoma Valley Cannabis GroupFor responsible health care policy
Sonoma dispensary on track for approval:
Congratulations! We did it. The two cannabis ordinances were finally passed in June of 2019 on a 3-2 to vote. See our newest posts for the latest news on the process.
This campaign was never about making it easier for “stoners to get their weed”, as many of the opposition would like to think. It was always about the patients. Always. Now, the essential services that dispensaries provide will become readily available within our own community. Those being treated for medical problems will no longer have to make a 2+ hour round trip drive to obtain medicinal cannabis. The lives of our seniors and the disabled who may not have vehicles or are on fixed incomes will be less stressful and difficult. In turn, the city will benefit from new jobs and an additional source of tax revenue. It can also take pride in furthering a progressive vision that improves the quality of its residents’ lives.
We thank everyone in this group and on our mailing list for their support, for signing the petition, for writing the letters and contributing to the discussions.
Thanks to Ken Brown and Jewel Mathieson for their years of advocacy for patients’ access to safe, legal medical cannabis. Their goal has finally been realized.
And thanks to our City Council allies Councilwoman Rachel E Hundley, Mayor Amy Harrington and Vice Mayor Logan Harvey for leaning forward on this issue. They’ve helped define Sonoma as a city of progressive values and a pacesetter in Sonoma County.
In the meantime, the Sonoma Valley Cannabis Group will continue to keep you all informed on new regulations, a cannabis tax measure and the possible ramifications of a separate dispensary ballot initiative in 2020.
Sonoma Valley Cannabis Group
The mission of Sonoma Valley Cannabis Group (SVCG) has been to assist the city of Sonoma form a compassionate cannabis policy that will accommodate a local dispensary with delivery service to ensure safe and legal access to medicinal cannabis for the residents of Sonoma and Sonoma Valley.
Hello everyone. The following is not an official position of SVCG. I cannot speak for all our members. But, as an advocate for patient access to medicinal cannabis, I think it’s important to help voters understand Measure Y.
On one hand, Measure Y removes nearly all of the city’s control over cannabis businesses. The city had already put an ordinance in place that allowed for a limited number of such businesses and its regulations were arguably reasonable.
On the other hand, Measure Y removes the barriers to opening cannabis businesses in the city, treating them as any other legitimate businesses seeking to operate in Sonoma. Its free market approach brings more choices and competitive prices to customers.
Originally, because the city council and staff made good effort to finally bring safe, local access to Sonoma, I supported its opposition to the Measure.
However, as I said, the city’s current regulations are “arguably reasonable” and this became more apparent as I received significant, well-reasoned, push-back from some in the cannabis industry. This lead me to take a neutral position.
Now, unfortunately, due to a very complicated and embarrassing turn of events, the dispensary process is suddenly in limbo, with no path to recovery of which we’re aware.
People are disappointed in the city council. They are frustrated and angry that all the progress made after three long years has stalled. If they can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, many will decide it’s time to cut and run and vote for Measure Y. And who can blame them?
Though I felt a certain loyalty to the council for passing an ordinance, ultimately, my loyalty is to all those who rely on medicinal cannabis. Patients and their welfare have been the core of my 30-year support for medical use, just as it has been for local advocates Jewel Mathieson and Ken Brown.
A choice must be made. The city’s current process is overly complex, restrictive and expensive. It cost its citizens a lot of money with nothing to show for it, so far. It’s time to consider cannabis businesses like any other legal business.
I’m going to support Measure Y.
The passage of Y is far from a sure bet. If it fails, it will be up to the city council to do its best to fast-track a reasonable solution for resurrecting the process.
If Y passes, it will fall to council to seek to amend it in ways that mitigate some of its issues without violating its spirit.
Uncertainty was interjected into Sonoma’s cannabis future this week when the Sonoma City Council failed to approve negotiated terms for a commercial dispensary license for Sparc, the Santa Rosa-based cannabis cultivation and sales company chosen to be Sonoma’s sole dispensary.
Less than half an hour into its Oct. 5 meeting, the city council cast doubt on its own selection process and halted forward progress on its effort to license a cannabis dispensary before the Nov. 3 vote on Measure Y. That signature-driven petition circulated in 2018 to allow multiple cannabis dispensaries in Sonoma with no city council oversight.CHRISTIAN KALLEN
INDEX-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
On Nov. 3, City of Sonoma voters will consider Measure Y, the “Personal Cannabis Cultivation Initiative.” If it passes with a simple majority, Measure Y would revise the city Municipal Code to “permit personal cannabis cultivation on all residential properties,” and also permit the “establishment and operation of cannabis businesses within the City, including commercial cultivation, manufacturing, retail, delivery, distribution, testing, and special events.”
“Another Measure Y supporter is former city councilmember Ken Brown, who has been advocating for cannabis deregulation in Sonoma for 20 years.”… “No one’s saying you can only have one tasting room, one gas station, one bank – we live in America; and as a capitalist system, competition is good,” said Brown.”
- On the face of it, a legitimate argument. Fear is still a driving force in hindering the industry.
“That’s not how the cannabis business economy works,” said Michael Coats, who at one time worked with Early on Measure Y and was an ardent supporter. “You want to divide up the pie? It’s still a pie.” Coats, who handles some public relations for Sparc, is a cosigner on the city’s rebuttal to the arguments in favor of Measure Y, along with former winemaker Mike Benziger, who supplies bio-dynamic cannabis to Sparc.”
- There is some merit to that. If there is anyone out there with a better grasp of economics, please rebut.
“Councilmember Amy Harrington, one of the two councilmembers on the city’s cannabis ad hoc committee, said the process was moved forward by the inevitability of Measure Y. “Part of our thinking was that we wanted to make sure a dispensary had been approved by the city, prior to the election, so voters would know that Measure Y wasn’t the only option.
“We selected someone; this is happening.”
- The City Council would like voters to know that it now has regulations in place and that a dispensary is on track to open soon.
“Vice Mayor Rachel Hundley added another concern over the passage of Measure Y. ‘It appears it would supersede the city’s ordinance and process, so our plans to move forward with a storefront dispensary and conduct additional selection processes for a local delivery business, testing facility, and culinary manufacturer would be prohibited,’ said Hundley.”
- The passage of Y might end the city’s current plans, but it would make it easier to open a cannabis business in the city. There are the caveats, however. Outdoor cultivation may become unpermissable and there would be no opportunity for local input and oversight regarding businesses’ impacts on the community and the environment.
There is, however, a lot of backstory to this issue and we may get into them in subsequent posts.
Sparc, a Santa Rosa-based cannabis company, will receive Sonoma’s lone business license to operate a storefront dispensary in the city limits.
The Sonoma City Council voted 5-0 at its Aug. 17 council meeting, held via the Zoom online platform, to award Sparc a conditional certificate for its proposed cannabis operations at 19315 Sonoma Highway, a site occupied by the recently closed El Gallo Pinto Mexican restaurant.
Under the city’s commercial cannabis ordinance passed in 2019, the city can issue only one license to operate a walk-in retail dispensary.
More to come…
So very sad to say we have lost a such a good, good friend, Jewel Mathieson. Jewel was an industry pioneer for compassionate care and one of the founders of the Sonoma Patient Group of Santa Rosa.
Yes, the city of Sonoma is on track for at least one dispensary to open, perhaps as early as this fall. We refer everyone to the Index-Tribune’s great rundown on the latest developments.
And then there were two. The City of Sonoma’s cannabis sweepstakes winnowed itself down from the ten applicants to the two blessed with the council’s approval to continue to Phase 2 of the application process: Locate a suitable storefront and secure a zoning verification in 45 days’ time.
Spoiler alert: The locals won the night.