2020 Ballot Initiative in Conflict with City of Sonoma’s Cannabis Ordinances

2020 Ballot Initiative in Conflict with City of Sonoma’s Cannabis Ordinances

The City, having stonewalled past the initial election deadline, is now finalizing its own ordinance. Early is waiting for an update from City Hall. “Please inform me within the next two weeks (now expired), one way or another, if the ballot measure meets all the legal requirements to be placed on the November 2020 ballot. And if it passes the vote of the people, that it will not be challenged or delayed any further by the City of Sonoma following the vote.” Would the city’s new rule supersede the ballot measure, if approved? Or vice versa? It could get heavy. Everybody pop a gummy and mellow out.

Sonoma Sun

There will almost certainly be a dispensary permitted and open before November of 2020. Some, likely all, on the city council feel the ballot initiative is poorly written and hope voters will recognize that existing ordinances are working and do not need to be replaced.  More to come…

Read more…

Sonoma cannabis vote still possible for 2020 ballot

Sonoma cannabis vote still possible for 2020 ballot

Sonoma Cannabis Access, a signature-driven initiative approved for the 2020 ballot by the Sonoma City Council in 2018, permits multiple cannabis businesses in the city’s commercial zones, without a use permit or regulatory fees – unlike many of the other uses currently allowed in commercial zones, which require a use permit. Jon Early collected 800 signatures in support of a cannabis dispensary in Sonoma in 2018 because the city council at that time had refused to support any commercial cannabis businesses in the city limits.

But in the year since that initiative was approved for the ballot the makeup of the Sonoma City Council has shifted, and council members in March approved an ordinance allowing for commercial cannabis operations in the city – including one walk-in dispensary, a delivery-only dispensary, a testing lab and a manufacturing business.

In spite of the city being in the process of developing its own commercial cannabis regulations, the Sonoma Cannabis Access ballot initiative is still slated for a vote in 2020 – and if it passes would override the city’s ordinances.

The article continues,

The state elections code states that “the proponent may withdraw the initiative at any time before the 88th day before the election,” as happened in Napa. Which means that Early could withdraw the Sonoma Cannabis Access initiative if he wished to – perhaps if he found the city’s new cannabis regulations process suitable, or perhaps if he were part of the new cannabis industry in Sonoma.

When asked if he would make an application under the new policy for one of the four projected business licenses, Early demurred. “At the moment I’m not planning to,” he told the Index-Tribune. “I don’t think I want to be a ‘beauty contest’ contender, I don’t like that approach.”

Now, despite the fact that the City of Sonoma has ordinances that permit cannabis businesses, a ballot measure, if passed, could upend and replace them with something that may prove unpalatable to Sonoma’s citizens. More to come…

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City of Sonoma’s Notification of Cannabis Ordinance

City of Sonoma’s Notification of Cannabis Ordinance

On June 24, 2019, the City Council conducted a second reading and adopted an Ordinance adding Chapter 5.36 to the Sonoma Municipal Code (Ordinance 03-2019) permitting and regulating commercial cannabis businesses. This ordinance will go into effect on July 24, 2019. In summary, the following types and number of cannabis business are permitted in the City with a Commercial Cannabis Business Permit (CCBP):

Dispensary or Retailer – maximum of one (1).
Non-Store Front Retail Business – maximum of one (1).
Testing laboratory – maximum of one (1).
Manufacturing – maximum of one (1) (State License Type N or P only).

On June 30, 2019, the City Council conducted a second reading and adopted an Ordinance amending Title 19 of the Sonoma Municipal Code relating to commercial cannabis businesses and to permit such uses in specified zoning districts in coordination with the adoption of the new Commercial Cannabis Ordinance amending Title 5 of the Sonoma Municipal Code. This ordinance will go into effect on July 30, 2019.

Next Steps: City Council will adopt criteria for submittal requirements and the adoption of processing fees. This process is anticipated to be completed by October 2019.

For more information, background and to subscribe to email updates when Cannabis Regulation Updates are added, please visit the Cannabis Regulation Page.



Done. The city council adopted the second cannabis ordinance this early Sunday morning and it was a pleasure to be there and see it happen. Thanks to Ken Brown for being there too, in some ways this has been an even longer road for him. Once again, thanks to the city council and staff! : )

Ordinances Moving Toward Adoption!

Ordinances Moving Toward Adoption!

Congratulations! We did it. The regulatory ordinance was finally passed on a 3-2 to vote. The first reading of the zoning ordinance also passed 3-2 and its second reading should be completed this Sunday in a special, short meeting.

There are a number of loose ends that need to be addressed in the coming weeks, but your city of Sonoma will now permit a medical dispensary and more!

Thanks to everyone in this group 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.?

Thanks to our City Council allies Rachel E Hundley, Amy Harrington and Logan Harvey for leaning forward on so many fronts to help define Sonoma as a city of progressive values that will be admired as a pacesetter.?

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. Recreational is fine, but if a choice had to be made between it and medical, I’d throw rec under the bus in a New York minute.

It has been a long 24 months since I climbed aboard this roller coaster. Ups, downs, twists and turns, you just try to hang on and do your best to steer. Let your passion fuel you. Let your desire to make things better fuel others to influence, inspire and make an impact. That’s how progress is made.



Hello SVCG members!

June 10, 2019, 6 PM

City Council Chambers, 177 First Street West

This is the time to make your presence known and voice heard. Please come show your support!

The Council will discuss and act on the Planning Commission’s 15 recommendations for 2 new Cannabis Ordinances.

The first ordinance covers the procedures for obtaining city approvals for a cannabis business, regulations governing the operation of such business, and the types of businesses that will be allowed (dispensaries, manufacturing and labs). Please note the City Council specified allowing 4 separate businesses, but the Planning Commission recommends only one.

The second ordinance specifies the zoning districts in which cannabis businesses will be allowed.

This is the first Item on the Agenda, so it will occur early. Look forward to seeing you there!

The Agenda can be seen here

The actual Agenda Report with all the details can be seen here (pdf)

SV Cannabis Group responds to Sun pot editorial

SV Cannabis Group responds to Sun pot editorial

Gil Latimer, of the Sonoma Valley Cannabis Group, responds to The Sun editorial ‘Haven’t you heard? The war on pot is over. “

It’s important to understand that any process for a comprehensive cannabis ordinance is fairly detailed and time-consuming. Though the editorial takes a rather skeptical route, it still arrives at a worthy destination.

Time is relative and opening a dispensary won’t happen overnight. The City Council has a reasonable timeline based on recommendations from the consultant: ordinances by the end of June; July set aside for Design Application Process and Cost Recovery Fees; August – September, Application Reviews, Backgrounds and Applicant Interviews; November – December, Award Issuance of Regulatory Permit Pending CUP approval or Operational Agreement; October –April, 2020, Develop tax measure for November 2020 Election.

The editorial state: “Jon Early’s ballot initiative to allow cannabis dispensaries in town will be on the ballot next year, no matter what the city does between then and now. And at the moment, that Early initiative, warts and all, stands a good chance of passing.”

Let the City control its own destiny. By state law, Mr. Early can withdraw his ballot measure up to 88 days before an election. This would be advisable.

“ the city is hurriedly working on the language of an ordinance …, but the draft of that ordinance was strongly and unanimously criticized by Sonoma’s seven-member Planning Commission at its most recent meeting.”

This seems to imply an impasse between the City Council and Planning Commission, but the City Council has proven to be quite progressive and is likely to agree with most of the Commission’s recommendations.

“Developed by a consulting firm…, the content of the 44-page draft ordinance is all but guaranteed to insure no dispensary will ever be established in Sonoma.”

Perhaps if the draft ordinance was accepted in toto, without changes, it would be too onerous for anyone who may have contemplated opening a dispensary in the city. But again, we know the City Council has an interest in creating an environment that would attract such business.

“Overall, the commission recommended at least 15 major changes that deleted over a third of its 44 pages.”

Yes, that’s a good thing. The Planning Commission was actually pretty progressive in its recommendations to strike many of the draft ordinances’ excesses.

“The bigger problem, however, is the way the language of the proposed ordinance treats dispensary owners and customers as ‘pseudo-criminals.’”

We know there are still negative attitudes around cannabis, and that cannabis ordinances in general reflect them in a number of ways, including all the extra security, signage and zoning issues and other regulations. Unfortunately, this is what comes with the territory in 2019. But, if Sonoma’s ordinances largely mirror progressive ordinances in other California jurisdictions, we should be able to live with that for now.

“Since Sonoma has never had a cannabis dispensary before, a go-slow approach is fine, and we support it.”

We feel this is a reflection of the old reefer madness propaganda that plays on unfounded fears. We have heard no good argument for the “go slow” approach that is not based on old paradigms. In addition, the process from application to permit is so time-consuming that openings will probably occur at a staggered rate.

We do, however, agree whole-heartedly with the editorial’s final paragraph. A good ordinance will do its part to combat the black market and bring in new revenue. “We strongly urge Sonoma’s City Council to accept the recommendations of the Planning Commission and to make the changes the Commission suggested; or simply review and modify a successful ordinance from another small city and completely toss this currently bloated and inappropriate draft ordinance.”

— Gil Latimer,