Sonoma Dispensary - Sonoma Valley Cannabis Group

For responsible health care policy

SUCCESS!

Congratulations! We did it. After 3 and-a-half  long years of cajoling and discussion, the city of Sonoma will permit 2 walk-in retail cannabis dispensaries. However, the first dispensary will likely not open until first quarter of 2022. And an overly-long and burdonsome process has yet to begin on selecting an applicant for the second. See our 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.

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 has finally been realized.

And thanks to our City Council allies, former Council Members Rachel E Hundley, Amy Harrington, and 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 informed on all the latest developments in 2021-22.

Best Regards,

Gil Latimer

Sonoma Valley Cannabis Group

The Voice for Cannabis in Sonoma Valley since 2017

 

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.

 

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.

Latest Posts

 

Sonoma City Council Out of Touch?

public records act request

One of our Sonoma Valley Cannabis Group members suggested in a recent thread that the council is “unable to relate” to the public. My response >

“Unable to relate” to the general public. Hmmm. According to the IT, “In the 10 opioid-related deaths that happened in 2020 in Sonoma Valley, half included fentanyl. By comparison, between May 2017 and 2018, not a single overdose death involved fentanyl.” According to the Department of Public Health, Sonoma County has the sixth-highest rate of opioid overdoses in the state, per capita. As little as 2 mg of fentanyl can be lethal depending on a person’s body size, tolerance, and past usage.

Last Wednesday night, the CC adopted without comment a resolution to participate in the national opioid settlement. Perhaps accepting $350,000 over the next 10-20 years for intervention, treatment, and education services helps them to feel they are doing their part to combat the opioid crisis. Fine, but never mind the $350,000 a second dispensary would help bring the city in one year alone that could be used for almost anything the city cared, *plus* the community benefits offered by an additional retail outlet.

But even more importantly:

A number of studies have shown that patients being treated for pain may successfully substitute cannabis for opioid medication. Still more studies show that cannabis access is associated with reduced rates of opioid use and abuse, opioid-related hospitalizations, opioid-related traffic fatalities, opioid-related drug treatment admissions, and opioid-related overdose deaths. This could help curb the opioid epidemic.

Unfortunately, the trend for opioid and fentanyl abuse in the Valley is clearly rising, yet the City continues to limit the options for anyone who might benefit from cannabis in their fight against pain or addiction. So, what’s the answer, I ask sarcastically, fix the cemetery problem in order to make more room for those who succumb to opioid addiction?

And let’s not stop there. According to the Salinas Californian, “More than 80% of illegal cannabis seized by Monterey County law enforcement officers failed official laboratory testing due to contamination in 2021.” If one buys and consumes cannabis from the black market, there is a likelihood of ingesting contaminated cannabis.

To be safe, experts suggest people should buy cannabis from a medical/recreational dispensary. Unfortunately, many consumers are buying from the illegal market because they simply can’t afford it otherwise. But, when consumers go to the illicit market, they don’t have access to established brands and the benefits of rigorous testing. It’s important to find a way to bridge the gap between that price point and bring those consumers over to the legal market. Allowing a local monopoly that excludes competitive pricing and product availability only exacerbates the problem.

Both of these concerns, opioid abuse and deaths, and black-market cannabis contaminated with molds, pesticides, and heavy metals, are serious public safety issues. People didn’t vote for Prop 64 for some tax revenue windfall, they voted out of concern for public safety and public health. Californians understood the importance of extending basic consumer protections to the millions who are consuming cannabis.

Though city government is charged with working for the safety, health, and welfare of its citizens, the city council prefers to minimize the benefits of supporting a safe, competitive, legal market in favor of managing parklets, creating Plaza “enhancements”, coming up with new parking strategies and making an art upgrade to the council chambers.

Sonoma City Councilmember Jack Ding Comments on Second Dispensary Process City Council 17 Nov 2021

Let’s leave the issues of language and speaking through masks aside for the moment. Here is Jack Ding’s take on the second dispensary.

We’ve made the best interpretation we can of Mr Ding’s commentary. You can click on the CC box for closed captions:

Mr. Ding:

“We spend too much time on this issue and of course the money is important, the tax money is important, but it’s not significant.”

• Apparently, Mr. Ding doesn’t think that HdL’s projection of $250,000 to $390,000 in annual revenue is significant.

“And I figure out, you know, what are we spending the money on this in the public from beginning to right now? Already in the triple, already four times for the next four or five years, and you can bring in the tax and the income. And it’s not to the money issue basically, it’s kind of the message the city council we want to send over to our community.”

• So, he may be referring to the amount of money that has been paid to consultants since day one. I do not understand what he means by “triple or four times for the next four or five years.” But, suddenly, it’s not about the money, it’s about the message the city council wants to send to the community. Perhaps he is referring to what he says next:

“So far i think (unintelligible) city council take care very seriously to, you know, to undertake a very responsibility for our local communities and different opinions, different backgrounds, some is the, you know, based on the personal experience, some based on the financial interest. You know, we consider it all, and also, we are looking, we are not thinking.”

• We take the opinions of our residents seriously. When we read opinions, we read them fairly, without judgment. (I’m half guessing here)
So, we are not proud, you know, we can (can’t?) consider an all”

• So, we are not too proud or self-serving to not consider all opinions (??)

“… especially for those council members right now retired, just only mayor Agrimonti closely involved ordinance in preparation. That is a big work.”

• Only the mayor was closely involved with the preparation of the ordinance and it was a huge task. We don’t know what relationship this has to his previous sentence,.

“These kinds of documents could be, as you know, the model copy for another city.”

• Our “documents” (which documents, the ordinance, the application and regulations documents?) are nothing special. Other cities are not looking to us for examples.

“However, the city of the Sonoma is different. We have it on our way to process and in a project, especially this is a new project, we already spent a lot of the energy and the time on this.”

• We’ve already spent a lot of time and energy on this.

“We had a better do it to the better and try to be than a perfect, although it is not necessary.”

• So, because we spent a lot of time and energy, we should make an effort to make the second process better and try to be perfect? Although it is not necessary.” (?)

“So according to another staff and I suggest six months for the reviewing and the (unintelligible) the processing got the, you know, the information that is not necessary.”

• He seems to go along with the six-month recommendation but we are not sure what he means by “processing” and “information”.

“That is a take responsibility for the business owners, for the customers, for all the neighbors, for the communities.”

• Who’s taking responsibility? The city council? Is the city Council taking responsibility for all those involved in this whole issue? Maybe that’s it.

“I’m the tax person specializing in the tax consulting. I have, I do have some in the marijuana in the business than you have clients, to be honest. i don’t mind understanding, it’s tough, especially for these kinds of small players and a mom/pop and having, you know, 10 acres in the land and want to plant it and then they sell it to earn their money. It’s impossible.”

• Mr. Ding is not aware of the deep issues faced by cultivators. Some are having a hard time; some are getting by. This, arguably, has nothing to do with a second dispensary in Sonoma.

“But we in city council, we want to protect our local people, right? So that we cannot just leave it open, “oh come here and then you can apply.”

• We’re not certain who he talking about. Apply for what? We already have a well-regulated process. Perhaps he’s referring to Measure Y?

“Finally, all the local people cannot get benefit.”

• We don’t understand his reference.

“Why you select us to be as a leader? No, we need to protect, number one.”

• Just for the record, Jack Ding was elected because he ran unopposed. We’re not certain we understand the mention of protection. Who is being protected from what? We would argue that the city council is ignoring its responsibility for the health and welfare of its citizens by denying them best access to cannabis.

“Number two, still is a compliance issue and under the federal level still it is illegal. People are struggling, you know, how to avoid pay, how to pay additional taxes later the store and come down. A lot of the people that are owing the taxes and bankrupt and also got a lot of the issues.”

• We don’t know, he may be going back to cultivators’ issues again. But the mention of being illegal at the federal level is just a red herring, a tired trope that those who don’t like cannabis like to trot out any time they can.

“So, when we move forward in a project, of course, we need to look at a positive side, bright future, but never forget people already, they got out of the trouble.”

• So let’s try to always be positive but remember that some people in this business have experienced troubles. (??) Though he actually says they got *out* of trouble. We’re not clear on what he means.

“We should learn something. that is a little bit of contribute to (unintelligible), thank you”

• So we should learn something from that, and that is my contribution to this discussion.

California Public Records Act Request

public records act request

Accountability is a bedrock of representative government. It is about trust between government and citizens. The appearance of questionable behavior hurts public trust. This is why we filed a PRA request with the city for all documents related to the second dispensary process from the last year.

Regarding the PRA request, per Government Code Section 6253, the City of Sonoma must respond to all requests for records within ten calendar days of receipt of the request. The response may include the production of records but alternately may also specify an extension of the production time or an exemption from public disclosure.

The city acknowledged receipt via email on the day it was filed, Nov 21. Ten calendar days takes it out to December 1. Today’s date is, of course, December 9.

We have yet to receive further communication regarding the City’s determination on whether it has records that are responsive to my request under the Public Records Act.

We also have received no communication regarding the City’s right to extend the response time beyond the ten-day period, which should state the reason or reasons for the extension and the anticipated date of the response within the 14-day extension period.

The City appears to be in violation of the Act. We, of course, will follow up…

Important Question for the Sonoma City Council

Woman With Megaphone

We wrote the following to each city council member and carbon copied all, so they all can see that each of them received this email:

November 28, 2021

Sonoma City Council
City of Sonoma
No. 1 The Plaza
Sonoma, California, 95476

To the Sonoma City Council,

Needless to say, the members of the Sonoma Valley Cannabis Group are disappointed with the decision made by the council to table the second dispensary process.

It was also extremely discouraging to group members and members of the general public that their outreach to the council was not recognized in any way.

Each council member received over 40 (!) unique postcards with personal messages. That’s over 160 post cards, total. We believe that, in all its history, the city council has never seen such a campaign.

It’s difficult to understand why the council was unable to publicly recognize the scale of citizens’ concern for the issue, especially after some council members suggested that perhaps there was no appetite for a second dispensary among the public.

Sincerely,

The SVCG Team

 

We have more questions we’ll explore in upcoming posts. Stay tuned…

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