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


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