PITTSBURG — The county’s industrial center opened its doors for new cannabis manufacturing on Monday night, becoming the second city to do so in Contra Costa County.*
“We now know there are other opportunities than to get high off marijuana and there are several people who need that for medical reasons,” Mayor Pete Longmire said, speaking in favor of passing the ordinance at its first reading on March 5. “Four to five to six years from now, we will probably look back and say, ‘What took us so long to get relief?'”
On Monday night, the City Council voted 3-0 in favor of amending its city ordinances to “only allow certain commercial medical cannabis businesses to operate, subject to specific permitting requirements and execution of an operating agreement.”
Mayor Pete Longmire voted in favor of the amendment with Councilmembers Merl Craft and Juan Antonio Banales. City councilmember Jelani Killings abstained from the vote. Councilmember Sal Evola was unable to attend Tuesday’s meeting, but voted in favor of the amendment on its first reading on March 12.
In 2016, over 68 percent of Pittsburg voters approved Measure J, which placed a 10-percent sales tax on any future marijuana businesses, potentially bringing in more than $100,000 yearly for the city.
“The voters approved a tax on any potential cannabis business and we’ve been looking at possibly lifting portions of the moratorium in stages,” Evola said. “Applicants will be vetted by the police and planning departments subject to a robust set of conditions of approval and safety measures.”
The change doesn’t allow medical or recreational dispensaries, collectives, cooperatives or deliveries to operate in Pittsburg, nor does it allow anyone to grow marijuana commercially. The city first banned these in 2011, ultimately obtaining a court injunction to shut down the East Bay Collective, which had operated a dispensary without a permit at the time. The City Council still considers these businesses to be “public nuisances,” the ordinance reads.
Despite the small step, the change makes Pittsburg the second city* in Contra Costa County — alongside Richmond — to be open for cannabis manufacturing, though only nine permits will be issued. Contra Costa County continues to explore options for allowing commercial cultivation of marijuana, distribution centers, retail and sales.
The first business in line has been BioZone Laboratories, which requested the amendment change so that the company could use cannabis in pain management and consumer product manufacturing. City staff estimated that an operating agreement with BioZone could bring in over $100,000 a year.
BioZone, which has been based in Pittsburg for the past 25 years, is a contract pharmaceutical manufacturer, which has developed over-the-counter drugs, cosmetics and nutritional supplements.
BioZone did not return calls for comment.
*CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that Richmond also allows commercial medical marijuana manufacturing activities in its borders.
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