November 2020 Ballot Measure Could Jeopardize Sonoma’s Control Over Cannabis Businesses

We would like to offer a word of caution to anyone considering entering into the application process for a dispensary in Sonoma.

Please be aware that there is an initiative coming to the ballot in Sonoma in November, 2020 that could change things. The impetus for this measure was the result of impatience over the city’s pace in permitting cannabis businesses.

Though the city has now enacted its own, very reasonable ordinances, they would be superseded by the measure, should it pass.

HdL has been the city’s consultant as it worked toward its own ordinances. According to HdL’s Cannabis Impact Report, there appear to be a number of inconsistencies in the ballot measure’s own language or with state law. Separately, the City Attorney’s Ballot Title and Summary addresses several issues of conflict between the city’s ordinances and the ballot measure. There are differences in land use zones, there would be no permit process, no environmental reviews, no assessments of neighborhood impacts, and there would be no limitation on the number of businesses that could be established.

Not to mention, there apparently would be a renewed ban on personal outdoor cultivation.

Obviously, if the ballot measure passes, then the city will have lost all local control.

So, applicants beware. The measure’s passage might negatively impact any existing or prospective cannabis business. Because the measure has a different process and different limitations as to where a dispensary can be located, it’s been speculated that it may not be possible to grandfather any existing business in.

If a dispensary opens this year in a location that is currently allowed, but would not be allowed under the ballot measure, what would happen?

Our advice is to have a good lawyer and do your due diligence.


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