Three residents have launched a petition drive in an effort to overturn a new Antioch ordinance that later this month would allow marijuana retailers and related businesses to apply for permits to operate in the city.
The “Not in Antioch” referendum would repeal the Cannabis Business Overlay District ordinance that the council approved by a 3-2 vote in late June. Former Councilman Manny Soliz, Parks and Recreation Commission Chair Rodney McClelland and resident Diana Patton are backing the measure.
If the group collects the needed 5,664 verifiable signatures by July 31, it will effectively put the City Council’s cannabis zoning ordinance on hold, City Clerk Arne Simonsen said. The council then must decide whether to rescind the ordinance or place it on the ballot for voter approval.
“We’re wanting the council to overturn the ordinance, since there was no examination of the collateral damage caused by this hastily adopted ordinance,” said Soliz, who wrote the referendum. “When an ordinance is adopted under such rushed and incomplete analysis, and in direct opposition to public and professional testimony, you have to wonder what special interests are being addressed.”
Soliz said he’s mainly concerned that the city didn’t how the ordinance would affect public safety considerations or establish a good process for taxing and licensing the marijuana businesses. He said the city deserves a more comprehensive strategy.
“How will pot purchases be taxed? At what rate?,” he said. “There was a lot of concern that was raised about it, but none of the issues were really addressed.”
The cannabis businesses would have to pay the usual business license tax and Antioch’s 8.75 percent sales tax, but City Manager Ron Bernal could not predict how much revenue they would generate without knowing how many would operate. Any additional cannabis tax would require a citywide vote, he noted.
The ordinance, which was to take effect July 26, allows various types of cannabis-based businesses in two areas of town, including stores selling marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes. The zoning modifications will pave the way for cannabis commerce in the industrial area along Wilbur Avenue on the city’s northern waterfront and in the Verne Roberts Circle business park near the western border. It prohibits cannabis businesses within 600 feet of a school, residential area or public park.
But backers of “Not in Antioch” say those two locations are problematic. The business park area includes the city’s top two tax revenue generators — Antioch Auto Center and Costco — and cannabis retailers could drive them out by inadvertently attracting crime, Soliz said.
The waterfront location is near the Antioch Youth Sports Complex, where hundreds of children play recreational baseball, softball and soccer, Soliz said. The industrial area along Wilbur Avenue also was previously identified as an economic zone from A Street to Highway 160, with access to heavy rail and a river port, which makes it attractive for assembly, light industry and manufacturing, but not if cannabis businesses move there, he said.
“I don’t know there is a good area where it (cannabis commerce) could go,” he added.
Ordinance supporters included Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe and council members Monica Wilson and Tony Tiscareno. Mayor Sean Wright and Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock voted against it. In voicing his approval on June 26, Tiscareno said most Antioch residents had voted for state Proposition 64 in 2016, which legalized recreational marijuana for adults. Thorpe noted that although he did not vote for Proposition 64, Antioch already has cannabis delivery services.
None of that matters to Antioch resident Traci Brown, who is volunteering to collect signature petitions. The Antioch business owner, who lives close to one of the newly zoned cannabis commerce areas, said she is concerned about the potential crime that marijuana retail, delivery and cultivation sites could draw.
“This is not what our city needs,” Brown said. “It’s not a good fit for our city, our youths.”
Brown called cannabis a “gateway drug” and said the cannabis industry is difficult to regulate and that the city lacks a clear plan to deal with potential problems. In addition, she questioned whether the business license fees and tax revenue would compensate for regulation and oversight costs.
“I don’t want to go to Costco and see a cannabis business right there,” she said.
Before any cannabis business can open, though, it must apply for a conditional use permit and get approval from the Planning Commission and City Council. Read more about the petition on the group’s #NOTINANTIOCH Facebook page.