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.
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.
The SVCG Policy Group