Racism and Cannabis?

Racism and Cannabis?

What follows is an e-mail one of our members sent to the Mayor and each Sonoma City Council member today. Our member was prompted to do so after listening to a recent Sonoma County Board of Supervisor’s meeting that included an unprecedented string of racist rants via Zoom, one or more of which were voiced by a person who currently holds two retail cannabis permits in Sonoma County, at locations a few miles outside of the Sonoma city limits (those shops have yet to open, for a variety of reasons).

Knowing that SPARC has pleaded financial hardship as the reason the citizens of Sonoma cannot have a second dispensary, and also knowing that the Sonoma City Council hangs its decision to support SPARC as the only game in town partly based on the speculation that maybe someday another shop may open outside of town, we have to wonder:

Is that permit holder, one who advances hate speech, the type of person that our city council, knowingly or not, should rely on as an excuse not to release the second RFP?

Dear Council Member/ Mayor

I was unable to stay on the county board of supervisors meeting for general comments at the September 12 meeting, as it was running very late and I had a prior commitment. I wanted to speak about the end run around the specific plan by Grup/ Rogal for SDC. Today I listened to this meeting. Public comment during the two agenda items preceding general comments and general comments were riddled with anti-Semitic and some anti LQBTQ hate speech. Though they were cut off, it continued and racist slurs got in anyway. This has now ended Zoom access to BOS meetings for the public to speak. I hope this does not happen for the Sonoma City council. Although it is much easier for us to drive into Sonoma for a meeting than to go to Santa Rosa.

I am writing to you today, because I know who one of the racist speakers is. This speaker was identified as Mr. Loe in some of the calls, but in others fake or no names were used. I know this person is John Loe the owner of the two cannabis dispensaries that have been approved for the unincorporated areas of Sonoma Valley close to the city of Sonoma. I know it was him, because several months ago he called my business phone. He started out trying to sound reasonable, but soon began calling me names and stating that I was a sexual deviant. I hung up on him. I know what his voice sounds like.

You may ask, why is he telling me this, there is nothing I can do about it? My point is this, I will never set foot in a business run by someone like this and many, many others will not either. As a member of the Sonoma Valley Cannabis Group, I will be getting the word out and many people will be boycotting these businesses, if and when they open. Just like not spending my money at LeFever Mattson owned businesses, because profits go to anti LGBTQ and anti-women’s rights organizations, I will not be spending my money at a business owned by a known anti-Semite. And I am sure many others will feel the same way.

The city of Healdsburg has approved an ordinance for 2 cannabis dispensaries. HDL advised them, like they advised the city of Sonoma that it can support 2 easily. SPARC is one of 8 who have applied. This shows that SPARC must be in pretty good financial shape if they can open another dispensary in Healdsburg. I will be writing to the Healdsburg city council to let them know what happened here in Sonoma. If SPARC really is having financial difficultly here in Sonoma, how can they have the money to open another dispensary in Healdsburg? And I will also be letting the Healdsburg city council know about the lies that were told by Erich Pearson and his employees. There are many honest and ethical people in the cannabis industry, and I think this should be a factor in choosing who to permit.

I am reaching out to you to ask once again to open up the RFP process for a second dispensary in the city of Sonoma. SPARC is not in a precarious financial situation as they stated to you, as they can easily open dispensaries elsewhere. Consumers do not have a choice in products from SPARC, unless you buy a case of the product. The 2 dispensaries that are supposedly going to open in the unincorporated area are iffy at best and most of us will not be patronizing them, because of who the owner is and what he stands for.


SEEWEED – PART ONE – McLovin Farm in Laytonville

SEEWEED – PART ONE – McLovin Farm in Laytonville

Short film (16 minutes) featuring just one of many legacy family cultivators trying to survive in the Emerald Triangle, where some of the best cannabis flower we all enjoy is grown.

Starting at the Mendocino Producers Guild markets in Laytonville, Matt Grimshaw catches up with MPG’s ringleader Traci Pellar and visits McLovin Farm to see their landrace cultivar called Heirloom Pineapple that’s been grown in the same spot, soil to seed, for over 20 years.

They seem like a nice couple, don’t they? Doing their best to provide for the greater good. But, because of insane regulatory policy, including dual-licensing and over-taxation, the impressive legacy of Emerald Triangle family farms, from which so many of the rest of us have benefited from for generations, will only be a memory if the State does not move quickly to help the smaller cultivators recover from financial losses.

“Local Control”, part of the dual-licensing system on which the city of Sonoma relies to protect sparc’s monopoly, not only threatens the livelihoods of smaller cultivators, it helps sustain the illicit market (which Prop 64 was supposed to eradicate) and endangers the health of consumers who have limited or no access to legal products that have been tested for pesticides, harmful contaminants, and mold and mildew.

Why would one choose to turn a blind eye to the injustice of limited access and all the harm it causes, from putting small farms out of business to jeopardizing public health? Why would one try to rationalize how permitting only one dispensary in a service area of 40,000 people makes any kind of sense?

And just a reminder, Sonoma’s disregard for its own citizens is mirrored by roughly two-thirds of local governments across California, folks.

People are getting hurt…

People are getting hurt…

Cannabis has been king in this rural area of northern California. But as prices plummet, communities and business owners are hurting, with no clear solutions in sight. Many blame Proposition 64 for undermining small growers.

This is another very important reason why it is necessary to support a second dispensary in Sonoma, and for that matter, in every jurisdiction across the entire state that is seriously under-served or not served at all.

It’s difficult to understand why some would rather support selfishness, slander and greed, than recognize what “for the greater good” really means. Do not tell us it’s “just politics”. It is not…

“Give Compassion: Every day the average person fights epic battles never told, just to survive.”
– Ken Poirot

Sonoma won’t have a second dispensary anytime soon. Why not?

Sonoma won’t have a second dispensary anytime soon. Why not?

Column by Friend Josette Brose-Eichar in the Sonoma Valley Sun:

Last month the Sonoma City Council addressed the issue of issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a second cannabis dispensary within city limits. The city’s cannabis ordinance was changed two years ago to allow another dispensary, its second. But at its April 19 meeting, the council declined to move forward. There will not be a second dispensary in Sonoma anytime soon.  

For the past two years we have heard that dispensaries will be opening soon in the unincorporated areas of Sonoma Valley, so no need to move forward 

It turns out some or all of the council met with Eric Pearson, an owner of SPARC, the one permitted dispensary in the city of Sonoma since April of 2022, before the meeting. His perspective is what they listened to.

Mr. Pearson, of SPARC, stated during public comment, “If it’s not plainly obvious at this point, the proponents of a second dispensary here tonight are part of an organization that we competed with and defeated in a highly competitive process. Some of these folks have teamed up with a new out-of-town operator who lives in San Francisco and who is organizing and financing this continued quest for another location. Despite the attempt to make this look like a local grassroots effort of concerned citizens, it is not.” 

As a member of the group he was referring to, the Sonoma Valley Cannabis Group, I can state that we have not teamed up with any dispensary operator, nor have we accepted any money from anyone. We are in fact a financially broke, grassroots organization that believes a second dispensary would be advantageous to Sonoma and consumers. We are not backing any specific operator for a second dispensary. The council did not question Mr. Pearson’s statement or ask where this information came from. 

Employees of SPARC stated, during public comment at the City Council meeting, that they would order any product a customer asked for. Soon after SPARC first opened, I personally asked for a product, and was told that their policy did not allow for ordering this product but, if I wanted it they would order a case of it for me for $540. I declined. As it appeared their policy had changed, I sent an email asking them to order two of the product and let me know when I could come in and pick it up. On April 24, I received a response that they would order for me. Since then I have had emails and phone calls from SPARC management, that no, the policy has not changed. They do “special orders” when customers request a product they do not carry, but “special orders” require buying a case. The council was not given this information. 

SPARC offered to give me a case of the product for free, because of all the confusion. However, we agreed that I would pay for and pick up two bottles of my product.  

I also do not think Mr. Pearson was promised he would be the only dispensary in Sonoma “for some time” by a previous city council  The city ordinance was changed in April, 2021 to allow a second dispensary, with the council at that time acknowledging the city could support and did need a second dispensary. 

Mr. Pearson has been successful in assuring that he will not have any competition in the city of Sonoma. To me his influence over this council is a cause for concern.

Sonoma Valley Sun, May 7, 2023
Retraction and Apology from sparc CEO Joseph Erich Pearson Necessary

Retraction and Apology from sparc CEO Joseph Erich Pearson Necessary

Two responses from our Sonoma Valley Cannabis Group regarding the city council’s mishandling of the 2nd dispensary issue and the accusations made against us by sparc CEO Erich Pearson.

Thanks to Perri Ellis Paniagua for her letter. My rejoinder to Pearson’s false allegations is on that page, as well.


For private responses: SVCG@sonomavalleycannabisgroup.com

Rather fail with Honor than succeed by fraud – Sophocles

Erich Pearson, CEO of sparc, currently operates 5 cannabis dispensaries in Sonoma County and San Francisco. His dispensary in the city of Sonoma has been open for one year and enjoys the enviable position as the one and only cannabis retail shop within a 15 mile radius. It is, at the very least, a one hour round trip drive to any of his competitors.

In order to maintain this retail stronghold, Mr. Pearson has employed numerous questionable tactics, but the charge he lodged against us in public to the Sonoma City Council, strikes a new low.

1. Our Sonoma Valley Cannabis Group is a 200+ member independent, informal advocacy group. SVCG is not, nor has it ever been, affiliated, associated, authorized, endorsed by, or in any way officially connected with any other company, agency or government agency. We view any charge to the contrary as defamation of character, resulting in a negative reflection on our reputation.

2. We assume Mr. Pearson refers to Justice Grown, one of the business entities with which it competed for Sonoma’s first dispensary permit. SVCG has never been a “part of” Justice Grown. To our knowledge, that applicant no longer had an interest in opening a retail store in Sonoma after the Sonoma City Council’s decision to award the sole Conditional Certificate to sparc on August 17, 2020.

3. Furthermore, to our knowledge, no members of SVCG have allied themselves with any out-of-town operator who lives in San Francisco.

4. SVCG has never received any funding from any outside source.

5. Our mission has been to assist the city of Sonoma shape compassionate cannabis policy and to keep our members informed of developments that bear on their needs. SVCG finds Mr. Pearson’s accusation that our group is something more than an unfunded, small town, grass-roots advocacy group to be insulting, deceitful and completely devoid of truth.

Under circumstances such as this, a public retraction and apology would be an appropriate remedy.

Gil Latimer

Sonoma Valley Cannabis Group