During last week’s council meeting, Vice Mayor Kelso Barnett acknowledged that so-called community benefits are not required for any other type of business, “…If we’re trying to normalize cannabis businesses, we should treat (them) like any other business and to require them to pay a certain percentage of profits to charities I think is a little onerous…” he went on to say that if the business owners wanted to contribute to charities, that’s great, but that the real community benefit is that a dispensary provides product to the community and that there is a 4% business tax that goes to city coffers.

That would be a start. Eliminate the Community Benefits package entirely. Or require a local hire component, some type of minimum wage agreement, and a labor peace agreement/mandatory card check requirement. Nothing more.

Trying to equalize monetary charity or in-kind agreements among the businesses doesn’t make sense. Again, applicants should not be competing against each other in order to score the most points in a “community benefits” category. It shouldn’t be about who donates the most to what. Level the playing field.

Or, let’s take it a step further. There is no reasonable, sustainable argument for denying the citizens of Sonoma access to a competitive market.

A competitive market includes numerous producers that compete with one another to provide goods and services consumers want and need. No single producer should be allowed to dictate the market.

The cannabis business permit process is a bloated mess of regulation and procedures that 1) drains the council and staff of time and energy that could be spent on more important issues, 2) encourages questions around any result that Hdl, a highly controversial consultant, may present to the city council and 3), provides opportunities for applicants to overtly or covertly influence decision makers.

Measure Y failed, but got something right. Let’s move to a streamlined ministerial process that supports the fundamental principles of the free market system. A ministerial review process reduces the liability that is inherent in a discretionary process, as there are no subjective criteria to score or grade. In addition, a simple ministerial review of an application is much less time-consuming than a merit-based review.

It’s just common sense…