The Antioch City Council took the next step toward allowing cannabis-based businesses to operate in town by approving guidelines for them Tuesday.
Forrest Ebbs, Antioch’s community development director, noted the guidelines will give the cannabis community a clear message about the city’s expectations. Although the guidelines won’t be legally binding, the city could require individual businesses to adhere to them as a condition of approval, he said.
“It is not a do-no harm ordinance,” Ebbs said. “It is a do-good ordinance.”
In addition to not creating excessive demands for police services, for example, a cannabis business would have to show it will benefit Antioch, he said.
“It’s a tall order to place on somebody coming to the community and having no idea what that means, and so that’s where the guidelines come in,” he said.
In May the City Council approved zoning changes to allow cannabis businesses to locate in certain areas.
Ebbs said the staff’s proposed guidelines describe the fees and provisions for cannabis businesses, including suggested security measures, operating hours, inspections, odor controls and setbacks from residences, parks and schools, as well as buffer zones from other businesses.
For example, a cannabis business should have one state-licensed security guard during operating hours, which cannot extend beyond 8 p.m.; security surveillance video cameras; cannabis products stored in a secure manner; odor control measures; and premises accessible for random city inspections. It cannot be located within 600 feet of a park, school, residence or another cannabis business.
Some residents and a potential cannabis operator, however, questioned a few of the guidelines and the ordinance itself.
Manny Soliz, former Antioch council member, noted that the city has missed its 2018 election deadline to impose a citywide cannabis sales tax, which must be approved by voters.
“No permits should be approved until the taxation issue and the resulting revenue amount is addressed,” he wrote. “You are allowed to impose up to a 40 percent tax rate, and if these enterprises are looked on to provide much-needed revenue, they should be taxed at the maximum rate.”
Resident Joshua Samuel, who had worked on a failed attempt to overturn the cannabis ordinance, also pointed to the lack of a local tax and said the majority of those in favor thought an additional tax was going to be imposed.
“We missed that deadline, it passed and now we have a first applicant that wants to set up shop in Antioch, and that large majority (of residents) ….thought there was going to be some kind of tax imposed just like we do on cigarettes and alcohol; that is not the case.”
Mayor Pro-Tem Lamar Thorpe, however, said although there isn’t a local cannabis tax, the city can impose taxes through individual development agreements.
Resident and potential operator Patti O’Brien, who runs a dispensary in Oakland, also pointed out that Antioch will still benefit from some of the state tax revenues included in Proposition 64, which legalized adult recreational cannabis use.
O’Brien said the city guidelines are a great foundation, but noted that dispensaries already must follow strict state standard operating procedures as part of the annual permitting process.
“I have a checklist a mile long of standard (state) operating procedures all the way from quality to inventory controls, laboratory controls, product controls, what happens in an emergency…”
O’Brien suggested that the city set up a regulatory committee to oversee the cannabis businesses and report back to council.
“I think that would be tremendously helpful,” she said.
Luke Bruner, of San Francisco, said Antioch has not allowed enough space for cannabis businesses.
“If you wish to eliminate the illicit market you, of course, have to have viable alternatives for the licit market,” Bruner said. “There’s the simple question of how many retail uses per 100,000 people would make sense — would it be one, two, would it be 10? With alcohol, it’s approximately one for every 5,000, but that’s certainly not going to be right for cannabis. But it seems it’s a bit too narrow there, so we certainly hope you can address the setback matter, which would ultimately thwart the policy goals that your council has articulated.”
One change the council agreed to make in the proposed guidelines was to expand the setback requirement so cannabis businesses would also have to stay at least 600 feet away from day cares and preschools.
Councilman Tony Tiscareno said safety was his main concern.[related_articles location=”left” show_article_date=”false” article_type=”automatic-primary-tag”]“I am still concerned about assuring and making it clear to an applicant that we want to take our security very seriously,” he said. “We want to make sure they do their part to make their facility safe, to make our community and the surrounding area safe.”
But no matter the guidelines, Interim City Attorney Derek Cole said the city can require a new cannabis businesses to comply with all of its regulations or make changes during the conditional use permit process. Applicants must go through the Planning Commission before seeking final approval from the City Council.
“One of the conditions placed could be ‘comply with all of the regulations,’ but we could also go above and beyond that,” he said. “You have a lot of flexibility … when you review individual applications.”
The council unanimously approved the guidelines, with council member Lori Ogorchock absent.