A Victory, but…

This sidebar once declared in its headline, “Success!”. And it was true at the time. After 4 long years of cajoling and discussion, the city of Sonoma had finally come to permit 2 walk-in retail cannabis dispensaries.

Unfortunately, though the first dispensary opened last spring, its owner, Erich Pearson of sparc, along with his personal lobbyist, Amy O’Gorman Jenkins, have worked with the Sonoma City Council to stop the process for a second dispensary.

Mr Pearson chose to misrepresent his financial situation to the Sonoma City Council in order to convince it to support what amounts to a city-sponsored monopoly, rather than face any competition that would provide medical patients with better prices, more product choices, and additional services.

Ms Jenkins, who runs her own lobbying firm, Precision Advocacy, and is also the Legislative Advocate for the California Cannabis Industry Association (CCIA), is a native to Sonoma. Her ties to the local community afford her a unique position to influence local policy. She was a contributor to the campaigns of cannabis-friendly candidates Rachel Hundley in 2018 and Sandra Lowe in 2021.

Appearances are everything. Contributions can create avenues for corruption, either grand or petty. Cronyism and favors to rig a market are unacceptable.

Thanks

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 of  local access has finally been realized.

And thanks to our past city council allies Amy Harrington and Logan Harvey for leaning forward on this issue. They helped define Sonoma as a city of progressive values in Sonoma County.

In the meantime, the Sonoma Valley Cannabis Group will continue to keep you informed on all the latest developments in 2022.

 

Best Regards,

Gil Latimer

Sonoma Valley Cannabis Group

The Voice for Cannabis in Sonoma Valley since 2017

Bear typingThe mission of Sonoma Valley Cannabis Group (SVCG) has been to assist the city of Sonoma form a compassionate cannabis policy that will ensure safe and legal access to medicinal cannabis for the residents of Sonoma and Sonoma Valley.

IMPORTANT NOTICE

On January 20, 2021, the city council voted to amend our ordinance to permit an additional walk-in retail dispensary. The newly revised ordinance went into effect on May 19.

A second retail outlet would improve service to the 45,000 people living in the greater Sonoma area. Competition can provide folks here with easy, safe access to more product choice, better services, etc. That’s what the free market is all about, isn’t it? Everybody wins, the city, adult consumers and *especially* medical users.

However, there have been forces within the industry that are working against the second dispensary option and would prefer that the new permit process be slow-walked. You can read about it in this post.

You can also read more details in member Josette Brose-Eichar’s Sonoma Sun commentary, “A brief history of cannabis in Sonoma”.

 

SVCG Introduction to City Council Candidates

SVCG Introduction to City Council Candidates

Hi All,

Prior to the upcoming Meet the Candidates night at the Sonoma Community Center (Oct 10, 5:30-7 PM), we have sent an introduction letter to all 5 candidates.

SVCG Logo for Email Header

October 4, 2022

Hello (Candidate Name),

This is Gil Latimer, founder of the Sonoma Valley Cannabis Group, located in the city of Sonoma. SVCG is a 200+ member group of cannabis patients, consumers, advocates and industry professionals. Over the past five years, our team has worked closely with the Sonoma City Council to provide patients and consumers in the city of Sonoma and the Lower Valley access to cannabis.

We are reaching out to you because, as a candidate for the Sonoma City Council, you’re probably interested in the particulars of our local cannabis issue. Hopefully, the information we provide will help inform your decision on moving the second dispensary process forward.

Sonoma now has an ordinance that permits two dispensary storefronts. It also has its Application Guidelines and Procedures and new RFP documents ready to go. However, in keeping with the issue’s history of being kicked down the road, the process for permitting a second dispensary has stalled.

We’d like to remind that Proposition 64 was supported by 62% of Sonoma voters, more than any of the other county’s cities, or the county itself. Also, the Sonoma Index-Tribune’s own survey found that about 64 percent of the more than 150 respondents were in favor of one or more dispensaries in town. “Of those in favor of dispensaries, only 11 percent felt a mere one dispensary was sufficient – many citing the need for competition to keep prices down.”

We’d also like to explain why permitting a second dispensary is so important. Without competition, everyone is at a disadvantage, our patients, responsible adult consumers, and the city itself. Competition improves our standard of living. It keeps prices low and raises the quality and choice of goods and services. What if there was only one pharmacy in our community? What if there was only one coffee shop or one tax preparer in town?

Without competition, any provider operating locally is able to set higher prices without fear, because its closest competitors are in Cotati and Santa Rosa. This is especially unfair to medical patients. The battles faced daily by those who depend on cannabis to manage their medical issues shouldn’t be minimized. Forcing those most in need of relief to travel many miles or pay extra delivery fees for products that may not be available from a single provider creates economic hardship within two of our most important communities, our seniors and veterans.

Product availability is a real issue. Patients with chronic or life-threatening illnesses need access to the widest choice of products possible to meet their medical needs. Unfortunately, inventories at dispensaries can range widely from shop to shop. They don’t all carry the same products or brands, and their availability can even differ from one visit to the next.

Limiting choice is not what compassionate care is about.

There are several reasons why an additional dispensary will contribute to the city and the health, safety, and welfare of its citizens.

Dispensaries create tax revenue. The city’s consultant, HdL, estimated that between $250,000 and $500,000 could be generated for Sonoma. Aside from tax revenue, it also noted that for every $1 spent at a cannabis retailer, an additional $3 in economic benefit goes to the host city or county. The city should see a comparable economic gain from cannabis.

Dispensaries create jobs. Not only do they provide good-paying, safe, family-and-community sustaining employment, they support ancillary businesses that don’t touch the product, like bookkeepers, tax preparers, personnel services, facilities maintenance and more. The jobs in cannabis are also year-round, not seasonal like those in hospitality. It is better for the economy of Sonoma to have another dispensary, than another restaurant, tasting room, or hotel.

The dispensary permit also requires the business to provide “community benefits”. For example, the city could form a dedicated foundation to provide cash grants to local nonprofits or be directed toward the city’s most needy residents and projects. It could provide support for local food pantries, or help fund SOS’s shelter services for the homeless, or improve wildfire protection/emergency services. A second dispensary even benefits the air we breathe by virtue of fewer miles traveled beyond city limits.

Past and present city council members have voted to permit an additional walk-in dispensary. That is the legacy of nearly five years of hard work by patients, consumers, advocates, and the city. This has been the democratic process in action and we continue to encourage the city council to fulfill that commitment and move the second dispensary process forward without unnecessary delay.

We thank you for your time and consideration and wish you the best in your campaign. And of course, the Sonoma Valley Cannabis Group is always at the ready to answer any questions you may have.

Best Regards,

The SVCG Policy Group

(Names)

Living in a Cannabis Desert

Living in a Cannabis Desert

All politics is local. Decisions made by city councils, mayors and commissioners have a direct and immediate impact on the lives of residents in their communities. Per California’s DCC, 56 percent of cities and counties prohibit the licensing of all cannabis business...

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