MARTINEZ —- A plan to manage commercial, retail and other marijuana-related business ventures should be prepared as early as mid-November, the Martinez City Council decided Wednesday night.
In addition to commercial marijuana businesses, the council indicated it would put out the welcome mat for a couple of retail operators, two deliverers, a manufacturer, a distributor and a testing lab.
When a “cannabis management program” is in place, prospective business operators could apply for the precious few licenses. Such a program will specify where in the city cannabis-related businesses can operate, establish a “pre-vetting process” to weed out prospective operators, require public hearings and set up a buffer of at least 600 feet between cannabis businesses and schools, daycare centers, youth centers and other “sensitive” uses.
City staff had urged the council to ban cultivation businesses, which a consultant told it are the source of most odor problems.
The council has taken a cautious approach toward marijuana operations. In November 2017, it imposed a temporary moratorium on all commercial marijuana activities but allowed Firefly Health Corp. to apply to operate a medical marijuana dispensary on Sunrise Drive in the city’s eastern side. The city’s planning commission approved that operation on Aug. 2, and the council must approve permits for it to open.
Any marijuana-related businesses that receive operating permits will have to pay a percentage of their gross sales in fees to the city, the council decided. For the number of businesses recommended by city staff, that could mean from $160,000 at 2.5 percent of gross sales to $255,000 at 4 percent the first year, the report states.
Those numbers didn’t dazzle council members. Council members Mark Ross and Lara DeLaney acknowledged the high revenue returns many cities projected haven’t materialized. Tim Cromartie, a senior adviser on cannabis policy for consulting firm HdL Companies, said marijuana businesses are becoming so widespread that prices have dropped.
Cities in and near Contra Costa County have taken widely varying approaches to commercial cannabis. Danville and San Ramon have banned all marijuana-related businesses and delivery; Benicia allows up to two retail businesses; Vallejo has at least 10 dispensaries; Concord provides for manufacturing, distribution and testing operations, but not retail; Pittsburg allows up to nine cannabis-related operations and recently approved its first processing facility. The county, meanwhile, is considering a range of marijuana-related licenses.
Among the potential areas where marijuana businesses could set up shop are along portions of Pacheco Boulevard and Arnold Drive on the city’s eastern edge; in commercial zones on both sides of Highway 4; Alhambra Avenue just north of Highway 4; along portions of Howe Road south of the Shell refinery; the northern portions of the downtown area; and north of the railroad tracks past downtown. Specific locations are still up for discussion.
Police Chief Manjit Sappal, who has been helping craft the city’s prospective cannabis ordinance, said, “We don’t want to lose momentum; we want to get things done.”
That sounded good to Greg Dixon of Martinez, who said medical marijuana has helped his father fight throat cancer.
“This is medicine, and I think you will be helping people in our town,” Dixon said.