Sonoma City Council OKs Second Dispensary

Sonoma City Council OKs Second Dispensary

To the 40,000 residents of Sonoma Valley, you will eventually have access to a wider variety of product choices, services and more competitive pricing to meet your needs.

After succeeding in our pursuit of Sonoma’s first cannabis dispensary, we took on a new mission to permit a *second* dispensary and won.

We’d like to think this is the result of a partnership between us and the city council. Would we be where we are today without both? Would former Mayor Ken Brown still be standing in front of council every two weeks asking it to please agendize discussion of a dispensary, as he was doing 3 and a half years ago?

When we first got our group rolling, we worked very hard to cultivate relationships with sitting council members and candidates for council. We have definitely been a hub for discussion and action in the valley. No one else can claim that.

Much of the book on the 20 year saga of cannabis in Sonoma has now been written. The Afterword is still a bit in flux, nothing has opened yet, and we’ll see how much the new process can be streamlined to open a second retail outlet asap.

But, on this Day of 420 (of all days), maybe we can take a little pride in helping to bring safe, legal access to cannabis here in the valley. ?

Council agrees on 2nd dispensary, disagrees on 1st priority

Council agrees on 2nd dispensary, disagrees on 1st priority

We think Christian Kallen’s article is generally correct/factual, but let’s set the record straighter.

Mr. Kallen quoted Councilmember Barnett as saying that if council had to choose, he’d prefer to focus on housing and other issues, that the process doesn’t necessarily have to start right away.

However, Councilmember Harrington suggested that if council tabled the process, “we might as well not do it.” She also suggested that hiring a contract planner could help mitigate the hours issue. That’s when Vice Mayor Agrimonti suggested that perhaps the Planning Director and City Manager might be able to arrive at some sweet spot on hours (both had suggested such).

Mr. Barnett then said, “I thought councilwoman Harrington had a good point, if this can all be handled by a contract planner, and all paid for, by the way…that was an interesting idea that seems to make a lot of logical sense to me and that’s, I guess sort of the hangup here, if it still takes up 25% of our Planning Director’s time and so that’s the…to which Mayor Harvey responded, “It doesn’t appear that it does.”, followed immediately by Planning Director David Storer adding, “…if we could find a consultant that knows the cannabis world, it would reduce my number significantly.”

That, to us, seems a reasonable conclusion for the moment. The city council very adeptly managed fire concerns and the pandemic and the cannabis process concurrently. We have much faith that it can take what it learned from the first process and plot a solution.

Sonoma City Council Meeting – April 5, 2021

Sonoma City Council Meeting – April 5, 2021

Forward motion:

1. This evening, the city council voted Yes on the first reading of the revised ordinance that will permit a second dispensary. If there’s no hitch, it could take full effect May 19.

2. The city council decided on Option 1, allowing past and new proposers to participate in a new process.

3. That process needs to streamlined enough to keep staff relatively free to also work on other city issues. The City Manager and Planning Director will look for a path to accomplish that.

You can watch the video here.

Start: Planning Director David Storer makes brief report on the revised ordinance and the four options for selecting a new dispensary.

3:00 – Mr. Barnett asks if council is aware of possible upcoming dispensaries outside the city limits- would that have any bearing on council decision for second dispensary. Ms. Harrington, Mayor Harvey and Mr. Ding respond that they remain in favor of a second dispensary in the city.

8:20 – Public Comment
1. Fred Allebach throws water on monopoly, doesn’t believe prices will ever come down, despite competition
2. Josette Brose-Eichar states that dispensary projects outside city limits are nowhere close to successful completion. the city has already gone through the process once and is all set up to move relatively quickly to provide more choice, more jobs, more revenue. She also draws distinctions between medical necessity and recreational use.
3. Richard Silver suggests there are ways to shorten the process.
4. Myself – let’s not limit ourselves to the four options, time to think outside the box. let’s go with option 1 to bring in new proposers, but figure out ways to streamline the process
5. Eli Melrod – CEO of Solful dispensary in Sebastopol – appreciates that the city is concerned about the process, thinks Solful would be a good fit for Sonoma and would like to apply.
6. David Eichar states competition isn’t just about pricing, but also selection of products. With two dispensaries, if one has to shut down due to emergency (this has happened in the past) there would be another local dispensary open to serve customers. Also reiterates that none of the dispensary projects outside city limits are a sure thing.

23:00 – Ms. Harrington opens discussion – happy that a second dispensary will bring more jobs with good wages, believes in the principle of equity, and that the war on drugs was a failure. would like to see smaller, local applicants get a shot. She supports a new RFP but does not support HdL as the consultant (HdL doesn’t have the best reputation)

25:10 – Mr. Kelso agrees with Ms. Harrington regarding small, local business entrepreneurs. He supports Option 1. he expresses concern about how much staff time would be involved, considering the other issues council is facing.

26:40 – Planning Director screenshares timeline for first process for Mr. Kelso’s benefit. PD also thinking out loud on how to shorten things up.

30:00 – Mayor Harvey asks PD if $10,000 application fee might be a barrier for new applicants, back and forth between members regarding cost recovery, etc.

32:00 – Mr. Harvey asks PD how much staff time went into the first process. Mr. Harvey expresses concern regarding how much staff time might be taken away from other city business.

33:20 – Ms. Harrington initiates a long discussion regarding a breakdown of time spent per task in the first process timeline. They again screenshare the timeline graphic and go through it, point by point. She suggests it may not take as much staff time as first thought.

40:15 – City Manager David Kiff suggests that staff can come back to the Council with some paths/workplans based on ideas just expressed to lessen staff time devoted to new process.

40:30 – back and forth among councilmembers regarding city priorities. Mr. Kelso suggests tabling the process until sometime in the future, Ms. Harrington says “that’s the same as not doing it, it’s approved, but were not going to do it, we might as well not do it.” Mr. Logan expresses concerns about staff time versus city priorities and suggests wait on starting the RFP 3 to 6 months from now.

44:10 – Ms. Agrimonti (wow!)suggests that the planning director and the city manager might be able to come up with a shortened process, as they both alluded to earlier in the conversation. Mr. Barnett *now* suggests that if the new process and other issues could be accomplished in the same timeframe, that might be okay. Mr. Harvey seems to agree. The PD then interjects that, after looking closer at the timeline during this discussion, there may be ways to significantly shorten the number of hours he would have to spend on the process.

48:00 – the mayor sums up the discussion. Council has concerns about how much staff time would be devoted to dispensary process, but it’s also interested in exploring ways to free up staff by implementing a more streamlined process. Members make final statements and slowly come to a meeting of the minds, Mr. Kiff and Mr. Storer will come back to council with new ideas, Mr. Storer now feels more confident that he may be able to free up time for other city projects. The Mayor makes a motion to introduce the ordinance, ordinance passes, 4-1.