A brief history of cannabis in Sonoma

The following column was written by SVCG member Josette Brose-Eichar:

My personal journey with cannabis began in 2017, just after Prop 64 passed in 2016 for adult-use cannabis dispensaries in California. After years of health issues, unsatisfactory treatment from conventional medicine, and four surgeries, I decided to follow a new path. I began to seek out natural medicine practitioners and to add medical cannabis to my quest. Dispensaries were making the transition from medical use only, so I got a medical card. Fast forward to 2021 and I find I have made the right choice. I’m not problem free, but finally able to lead an almost normal life. 

I had to travel out of the Sonoma Valley or pay more for delivery, to get the medicine I needed. I got involved with the Sonoma Valley Cannabis Group to get a dispensary in Sonoma.

Many are not aware of the long and winding road to getting a dispensary or two here in Sonoma, so here is a brief history of the Sonoma cannabis quest.

The city of Sonoma began to study the dispensary issue in 2016, as they realized that Prop 64 was going to pass and they would have to have a policy in place. The makeup of the city council at that time was conservative, “kick the can down the road” in dealing with this issue. They studied the issue and put a moratorium in place, no dispensaries in Sonoma. In 2017 they extended the moratorium. But, lo and behold, one Jon Early created a ballot measure and began gathering signatures. It was clear that kicking the can down the road was not a good strategy. 

By 2018 the makeup of the city council changed. Three progressives were now on the council and realized that it would be better if Sonoma wrote its own ordinance, setting rules for cannabis, rather than a ballot measure that benefited its creator. The council decided to push the ballot measure to the November 2020 election to buy time.

Thanks to the three city council members, a consultant was hired in February 2019. An ordinance for one storefront and one delivery service was passed in June 2019. The consultant advised that Sonoma could support two storefront dispensaries. The selection process completed in August 2020 selected SPARC as the permitted dispensary and measure Y was defeated in November 2020.

Many of us realized the needs of the community, plus fair and open competition, demanded that the ordinance be amended to permit a second dispensary. In April 2021 that became a reality. But, once again the makeup of the city council changed. The three progressive council members who worked so hard were gone. SPARC now wants a year to see if they are profitable before the city starts the process to select a second operator. Some new city council members are on the fence, citing there may be dispensaries opening up in the unincorporated area of the valley or really don’t believe there is a need for two.

Would this be the discussion for a restaurant, retail or tasting room? Of course not.  Be sure to attend the November 17, city council meeting. Let’s stop kicking the can down the road and move forward on a compassionate and realistic approach to cannabis for Sonoma.


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