Business

Survey: Strong support for medical marijuana sales in Concord

CONCORD — Despite a recent survey indicating strong support for allowing medical marijuana sales in Concord, city leaders may ban all commercial cannabis activities.

Polling firm Godbe Research found that 69 percent of respondents support medical marijuana sales and about 51 percent favor recreational pot sales. Sixty-three percent or more of survey participants support allowing medical cannabis dispensaries in industrial areas of the city and near the police department, which is on Galindo Street.

If the council and police agree on a location for a medical pot shop, about 69 percent of respondents said they would support the decision. The poll found greater support for allowing stores selling marijuana for recreational use to locate near the police department than on the industrial outskirts of the city.

Conducted by phone and online from Aug. 22-29, the poll of 1,155 residents has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

To give the city time to explore options for regulating medical marijuana dispensaries, retail sales and other commercial cannabis operations, the City Council on Tuesday will consider putting in place a ban on all marijuana activities and uses, except delivery and those allowed under Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana use for adults.

The ban would prevent the state from issuing licenses to marijuana-related businesses that want to open in Concord. The meeting is at 6:30 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1950 Parkside Drive.

Nearly 61 percent of Concord voters supported Proposition 64. Under the law, adults are allowed to grow six marijuana plants inside a private residence for their personal use. However, municipalities may regulate or prohibit cultivation outdoors and for commercial purposes, as well as retail sales of marijuana products.

Councilman Edi Birsan said that the city should regulate all aspects of the cannabis industry, including testing labs, commercial grow operations and retail sales. Concord residents, he maintains, should not have to drive to dispensaries in Oakland, Berkeley or Richmond for medicine they use to treat pain or nausea associated with chemotherapy, prescription drugs and chronic ailments.

“I believe that we need to get out in front of this because everyday, in every way, our residents are suffering and that’s unacceptable,” said Birsan, who added that he is open to hearing opposing viewpoints.

Ironically, the legalization of recreational marijuana in California could put some illicit medical cannabis delivery services out of business.

In 2005, Concord banned medical marijuana dispensaries and home delivery. In June, the council adopted an ordinance allowing licensed dispensaries located outside the city to deliver to qualified Concord patients if the businesses register with the police department.

The Agathist Collective has been operating without permission in Concord since 2015.

“To be in the cannabis business you have to break a couple of laws,” said co-founder Timothy Byars. “We’re all breaking federal law now.”

Byars wants the council to allow medical marijuana delivery services to operate in Concord. Otherwise, he said, the collective will disband, leaving its 600 members in limbo.

“Every city east of the Caldecott Tunnel will have a ban on commercial cannabis activity,” Byars said. “There will be no legal cannabis companies in Contra Costa County in 2018 because there are no cities that intend to issue those kinds of licenses.”

To view the entire cannabis survey, visit the city website at www.cityofconcord.org.