MARTINEZ — Though most City Council members said Wednesday they’re OK with having a medical marijuana dispensary in town, they noted that putting one next to a gym visited primarily by children and teens may not be a great idea.
The council postponed deciding whether to grant operating permits to the Firefly Cannabis dispensary until the city finishes drafting its marijuana ordinance, likely before the end of the year.
That ordinance could allow for two retail cannabis businesses (medical and/or recreational) as well as two delivery businesses and a single manufacturing business, distribution business and testing lab. Martinez could become Contra Costa County’s first city to allow retail cannabis if the ordinance is approved.
Councilwoman Noralea Gipner said she supports Firefly’s application and doesn’t view the Power Endurance training facility as a youth center. State law requires a buffer of at least 600 feet between marijuana businesses and places where kids gather.
But Gipner’s council colleagues and the many people who packed the council chamber felt otherwise. Their common refrain was that they want a dispensary in Martinez, just not next to a gym/training center in the same building on Sunset Drive where about two-thirds of its clients are kids or teens.
Councilman Mark Ross said he visited Power Endurance unannounced one day and found mostly kids there.
“Both missions are beneficial … I want you both in Martinez,” Ross told representatives of Power Endurance and Firefly. But “this is a wholly incompatible location issue,” he added.
Though there was disagreement Wednesday night about whether Power Endurance owner Maurice Jones-Drew knew before he signed his lease at 4808 Sunset Drive that a cannabis business was coming in, Ross said Jones-Drew was there first.
The “youth center” question kept coming up during the discussion, and Mayor Rob Schroder said the city must set its own definition.
That question also dominated a July 30 meeting of the Planning Commission, which approved Firefly’s conditional use permit and recommended the council allow it to operate at the site.
A week later, attorneys for Power Endurance appealed the commission’s action, saying the facility qualifies as a youth center and is unsuitable for a cannabis sales business.
The City Council heard from 34 people Wednesday, 14 of whom supported Firefly’s permit applications. A few of them said a medical cannabis business should be compatible with young people.
“The classic NIMBY, that’s what this is all about,” Martinez resident Jane Pitts said. “I vote for “IMBY;’ I want this in my backyard.” She said the youth center question is a “red herring.” Other speakers touted the value of cannabis in helping sick relatives and friends.
But the majority of speakers said putting a cannabis business next to a gym would tempt kids and possibly jeopardize the gym’s future because parents would be wary of dropping them off there.
“If this affects one of our children, it affects us all,” said Lisa Hernandez, a San Ramon resident and mother of a child who trains at Power Endurance. “You’re putting children at risk the second they walk onto that (parking) lot.”
While the city’s cannabis ordinance is being crafted, Ross said he is willing to help the Firefly people find an alternative spot in Martinez. “I’d be happy to mediate,” he said.