SVCG Introduction to City Council Candidates

SVCG Introduction to City Council Candidates

Hi All,

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.

SVCG Logo for Email Header

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.

Best Regards,

The SVCG Policy Group


Cannabis: Consumer Health and Wellness Concerns

Cannabis: Consumer Health and Wellness Concerns

This is a message that needs to be repeated over and over again in some quarters. We’ve forwarded this to the Sonoma City Council as a reminder that patients should not be restricted to only one retail outlet in the middle of a cannabis desert.

Dear City Council and Staff,

A recent article published by Forbes highlights a new study conducted by The Harris Poll which shows that a majority of cannabis consumption is attributable to consumers’ desires to address health and wellness concerns. It’s important to note that there are many ways to consume cannabis safely, and many formulations actually have minimal intoxicating effects.

The increased demand for cannabis solutions requires greater accessibility to a variety of products. However, not all dispensaries carry all formulations and limiting ready, local access to medication impedes individuals from obtaining the necessary provisions for their health and well-being.

Key takeaways:

• An overwhelming majority (91%) of adults 21 years old and over, consume cannabis for health and wellness purposes.
• 75% said they would prefer holistic solutions over pharmaceuticals to treat a medical issue when possible.
• 62% of people say prefer to use cannabis rather than pharmaceuticals to treat a medical issue.
• 88% of those who have consumed cannabis as an alternative and/or in addition to pharmaceutical treatments feel that doing so has improved their overall well-being.
• Moreover, 86% of those who have used cannabis for health or wellness would recommend cannabis to a friend or family member for medical reasons.

The Forbes article, “Sorry, Stoners: Most Cannabis Users Do So For Health And Wellness, Says New Study”, can be seen here.

The complete results of the survey can be viewed here.


Sonoma Valley Cannabis Group

Cannabis Christmas — Sonoma’s first (and only) dispensary opens on 4/20 (??)

Cannabis Christmas — Sonoma’s first (and only) dispensary opens on 4/20 (??)

“The main reason it has taken so long for the SPARC Sonoma dispensary to open is the red tape in Sacramento and Santa Rosa, the county seat.”

Mr. Raskin knows full well that neither Sacramento nor Santa Rosa have been to blame for the lack of a dispensary in Sonoma. Anyone paying attention knows the fault lies with the Sonoma City Council. Ken Brown and I apprised Mr Raskin of this when we met with him some time ago. How quickly, and conveniently, we forget.

Cannabis Retailer Expands in Sonoma In Alliance With Craft Cannabis Brands From Northern California

Cannabis Retailer Expands in Sonoma In Alliance With Craft Cannabis Brands From Northern California

Innovation, tailored customer experiences, competitive pricing, broader selection of products…These are the benefits of competition, something that Erich Pearson and Amy O’Gorman Jenkins of sparc and the Sonoma City Council are bound and determined to deny the patients and citizens of the city of Sonoma.

This article from Benzinga:

“As customers return to brick-and-mortar stores after the COVID-19 pandemic, cannabis dispensary owners prepare to provide tailored customer experiences in settings that differ by far from the “trap” stores stereotypes of prohibition times.

The surge of online cannabis deliveries during the pandemic, in addition to price competition has driven cannabis entrepreneurs to compete for offering a broad selection of high-quality cannabis products and finding skillful budtenders that can build a strong community of customers around cannabis culture. In addition, store design and infrastructure remain key assets to differentiate businesses in a crowded market.”

In California, home to some of the most innovative dispensary chains, the Santa Rosa sector, in particular, has grown by being conveniently located along the Highway 101 corridor which helps local cannabis businesses reach beyond the city limits.

New Ideas…

New Ideas…

Recently, one our our SVCG members said, “It is too bad our city council is “deaf” to the reality of how Pearson does business.”

My response? I don’t know how you get those who are deaf and dumb to hear and speak. It’s absolutely infuriating that not one of them, including Ms Lowe, has responded in any way to our last 4 emails to them. This is unacceptable. That they are busy people and shouldn’t be expected to respond to every little email is not an excuse. It is disrespectful. The message implicit in silence is “I choose to ignore you”.

One could try to make a case that it is we who are disrespectful, so why should we expect dialogue? If speaking truth to power, which is exactly what we’ve done, is considered discourteous, I’m not buying it. It’s so easy to feign aggrievement to help justify one’s refusal to engage the other.

Smiles and handshakes won’t get us what we want. Standing at the podium, hat in hand, murmuring “please” will not get us what patients deserve. One tactic in negotiation is trying to put yourself in the other’s shoes, but it’s difficult to conceive what it’s like to be deaf and dumb to this issue.

Though council members probably wouldn’t admit it aloud, some seem to be in the mindset of past members like David Cook and Gary Edwards, who were more worried about protecting “the jewel that is Sonoma” than looking after the health, safety and welfare of its own citizens. It is embarrassing and shameful and corrosive.

So, what kind of diplomacy, tact or artfulness cuts through an intractable wall of denial?

It seems we can only continue to point out to the city council that its continued blockage of a new RFP and denying Sonoma’s patients and consumers fair access to cannabis is unreasonable and unjustified.

But we need new ideas on how to do that. We do have a pretty good brain trust in this group and we are calling on you now, asking if you have any suggestions, big or small, on how to move the ball forward.

Thank you!

The Sonoma Valley Cannabis Group Policy Committee

On the web: Sonoma Valley Cannabis Group

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