STOCKTON — The city may temporarily ban new recreational and medical cannabis businesses to buy more time for officials to tailor local ordinances for Stockton.
Officials and the City Council’s legislation committee discussed the matter at a meeting last week. The possible temporary ban is expected to go before the full council for a vote before year’s end.
“The state licensing will take precedence if there is no local control,” Community Development Director David Kwong told legislation committee members Dan Wright, Elbert Holman and Jess Andrade.
Stockton voters last year approved allowing two more medical cannabis dispensaries in the city in addition to the two sites already operating legally. The city’s residents also approved allowing four medical cannabis cultivation sites last Nov. 8, the same day California voters legalized adult recreational use of marijuana in the state.
State business regulations for legal cannabis production and adult use are due to take effect Jan. 1. In the meantime, local governments have the opportunity to develop their own ordinances distinct from the state’s regulations. Or, in the case of Stockton, officials say they would like a little more time.
“It will really allow us to spend the adequate time to do our research and look at the best practices out there to preserve,” said Tom Pace, the city’s director for planning and engineering.
Zach Drivon, a Stockton attorney who works with local medical cannabis organizations, raised several issues for city officials to consider.
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One is a 22,000-square-foot state limit for cultivation sites. Drivon said Stockton’s existing regulations count a cultivation facility’s entries and exits against the 22,000-square-foot maximum. Stockton also counts harvesting, drying, curing, grading and trimming space against the limit. The state is less restrictive, and Drivon suggested Stockton match the California regulations, allowing for more growing space and, as a result, more local tax revenue.
“This really restricts us to about 75 percent of the approved facility’s production capacity,” Drivon said, referring to a local cultivator he represents. “In real terms, that’s about a $1.35 million per year revenue loss for the business … and an approximate $70,000 revenue loss for the city itself.”
Drivon also said the city’s existing licensing structure covers only dispensaries and cultivation facilities, and thus is “incomplete.” As a result, Drivon said, state-required pre-sale requirements such as testing and distribution of products must take place outside Stockton.
“Only after it passes muster at the lab-testing facility can it then be sent from the distribution centers to the retail centers where it meets the consumers,” Drivon said.
Pace predicted that if the council approves a temporary ban on new cannabis businesses in Stockton, the city will be able during 2018 to tailor its own ordinances separate from the state regulations.
“If we could have it all figured out by Jan. 1,” Pace said, “there would be no need to talk about a ban.”