Sonoma Dispensary - Sonoma Valley Cannabis GroupFor responsible health care policy
Sonoma dispensary on track for approval:
Congratulations! We did it. The two cannabis ordinances were finally passed in June of 2019 on a 3-2 to vote. See our newest posts for the latest news on the process.
This campaign was never about making it easier for “stoners to get their weed”, as many of the opposition would like to think. It was always about the patients. Always. Now, the essential services that dispensaries provide will become readily available within our own community. Those being treated for medical problems will no longer have to make a 2+ hour round trip drive to obtain medicinal cannabis. The lives of our seniors and the disabled who may not have vehicles or are on fixed incomes will be less stressful and difficult. In turn, the city will benefit from new jobs and an additional source of tax revenue. It can also take pride in furthering a progressive vision that improves the quality of its residents’ lives.
We thank everyone in this group and on our mailing list for their support, for signing the petition, for writing the letters and contributing to the discussions.
Thanks to Ken Brown and Jewel Mathieson for their years of advocacy for patients’ access to safe, legal medical cannabis. Their goal has finally been realized.
And thanks to our City Council allies Councilwoman Rachel E Hundley, Mayor Amy Harrington and Vice Mayor Logan Harvey for leaning forward on this issue. They’ve helped define Sonoma as a city of progressive values and a pacesetter in Sonoma County.
In the meantime, the Sonoma Valley Cannabis Group will continue to keep you all informed on new regulations, a cannabis tax measure and the possible ramifications of a separate dispensary ballot initiative in 2020.
Sonoma Valley Cannabis Group
The mission of Sonoma Valley Cannabis Group (SVCG) has been to assist the city of Sonoma form a compassionate cannabis policy that will accommodate a local dispensary with delivery service to ensure safe and legal access to medicinal cannabis for the residents of Sonoma and Sonoma Valley.
As you know from our previous post, Sonoma’s process to permit one walk-in dispensary with delivery and one delivery-only service continues on track. The city’s cannabis consultant and Process Review Committee both completed their scoring of ten candidates and presented the city council with 5 for its own review. Those applicants are:
- Coastal Retail Sonoma, LLC dba Coastal with 2,453 points (98.12%);
- SOPARC, LLC dba SPARC with 2,436 points (97.44%);
- R&B Dispensary Inc dba Mercy Wellness Sonoma with 2,397 points (95.88%);
- Matanzas Alliance LLC dba Justice Grown with 2,391 points (95.64%) and;
- The Lighthouse Sonoma, LLC with 2,390 points (95.6%)
Mercy Wellness has since dropped out, leaving four to be considered.
All four made presentations to the council via Zoom on Wednesday, May 27. The council will decide on an unknown number of finalists to move forward at its meeting on June 8, 2020. The finalists will be allowed 45 days to locate an appropriate site within the city. The council then will make site/vendor selection(s) in late July or early August.
For those interested in viewing the Powerpoint presentations made last week, they can be seen here:
If you would like to actually view the meeting and all the presentations made, here is the city’s Youtube stream: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53G_JJdHCX8
To all SVCG members and supporters:
As you may know, some months ago Sonoma adopted its cannabis ordinances which allow 1 walk-in with delivery and one non-storefront delivery service. It will also permit one testing lab and one manufacturer, perhaps next year.
In January, the city posted an RFP calling for dispensary applicants, to which perhaps as many as ten parties responded by the February 21 closing date. Those applications are now in the hands of HdL, the consultant hired by the city to assist it in this process. HdL will employ a merit-based scoring system to help determine which applicants are best qualified, then pass them along to the Process Review Committee for another round of scoring. The PRC consists of the Planning Director, the City’s cannabis consultant, a representative from the County of Sonoma or the Economic Development Board, and the Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce.
After the PRC completes its scoring, it will present the top 5 applicants to the city council for a decision on who best qualifies to move forward in the process. With any luck, there could be at least one dispensary open for business in Sonoma come the Fall of this year:
March – Consultant ranking
April – Proposal Review Committee ranking
May – City Council selects most qualified candidates
June-August – Permit process/ site reviews, etc.
There is, however, one caveat. This is actually is a pretty aggressive timeline and its largely due to an overly-permissive initiative that qualified for the 2020 ballot. That initiative would take control of the process away from the city and there would be no selection process, or even a requirement for a use permit. The council hopes that if we have one or two dispensaries already in place through a reasonable process, that initiative could be withdrawn before the 2020 election.
This issue will likely heat up through this spring and summer, so stay tuned!
As always, we appreciate your support and we will continue to update you on the latest developments.
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Sorry, remiss in posting Mayor Logan Harvey’s recent appearance on Ken Brown’s “Hey Neighbor” show. The Mayor gives a brief rundown on the city’s new cannabis ordinance and what it currently allows here. He also expresses his opinion on the November 2020 ballot initiative (note he uses “initiative” and “ordinance” interchangably) that could overturn the city’s new, reasonable ordinance and take away the city’s ability to control cannabis businesses within its borders. He personally feels that cannabis should be allowed in Sonoma “in a controlled way” and explains why. This is going to be an important issue – worth the listen!
Runtime about 4:30 minutes.
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.
The City, having stonewalled past the initial election deadline, is now finalizing its own ordinance. Early is waiting for an update from City Hall. “Please inform me within the next two weeks (now expired), one way or another, if the ballot measure meets all the legal requirements to be placed on the November 2020 ballot. And if it passes the vote of the people, that it will not be challenged or delayed any further by the City of Sonoma following the vote.” Would the city’s new rule supersede the ballot measure, if approved? Or vice versa? It could get heavy. Everybody pop a gummy and mellow out.
There will almost certainly be a dispensary permitted and open before November of 2020. Some, likely all, on the city council feel the ballot initiative is poorly written and hope voters will recognize that existing ordinances are working and do not need to be replaced. More to come…
Sonoma Cannabis Access, a signature-driven initiative approved for the 2020 ballot by the Sonoma City Council in 2018, permits multiple cannabis businesses in the city’s commercial zones, without a use permit or regulatory fees – unlike many of the other uses currently allowed in commercial zones, which require a use permit. Jon Early collected 800 signatures in support of a cannabis dispensary in Sonoma in 2018 because the city council at that time had refused to support any commercial cannabis businesses in the city limits.
But in the year since that initiative was approved for the ballot the makeup of the Sonoma City Council has shifted, and council members in March approved an ordinance allowing for commercial cannabis operations in the city – including one walk-in dispensary, a delivery-only dispensary, a testing lab and a manufacturing business.
In spite of the city being in the process of developing its own commercial cannabis regulations, the Sonoma Cannabis Access ballot initiative is still slated for a vote in 2020 – and if it passes would override the city’s ordinances.
The article continues,
The state elections code states that “the proponent may withdraw the initiative at any time before the 88th day before the election,” as happened in Napa. Which means that Early could withdraw the Sonoma Cannabis Access initiative if he wished to – perhaps if he found the city’s new cannabis regulations process suitable, or perhaps if he were part of the new cannabis industry in Sonoma.
When asked if he would make an application under the new policy for one of the four projected business licenses, Early demurred. “At the moment I’m not planning to,” he told the Index-Tribune. “I don’t think I want to be a ‘beauty contest’ contender, I don’t like that approach.”
Now, despite the fact that the City of Sonoma has ordinances that permit cannabis businesses, a ballot measure, if passed, could upend and replace them with something that may prove unpalatable to Sonoma’s citizens. More to come…