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.
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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…