Hollister council members work to hash out cannabis rules

Cannabis plants

Council members squabbled over proposed changes to a local marijuana ordinance at their Monday meeting.

If approved at a later date, the ordinance would amend the current ban on medical marijuana facilities within city limits. The matter goes back before the council for a second reading and potential adoption at the next meeting Dec. 19.

Proposed changes deal with the number of dispensaries allowed, zoning and the working age of those who can work at medical marijuana facilities.

The council decided to cap the dispensary number at two facilities, remove the 600-foot setback from conforming residential use and religious institutions, make dispensaries able to operate in light industrial zoned areas, remove mixed use zoning, and change the working age from 21 to 18. In addition, the council voted to dissolve the ad hoc committee comprised of Councilman Karson Klauer and Councilman Ray Friend.

The resolution states that a regulatory permit from the city is required in order to operate a medical cannabis facility. Each permit would expire one year from its issue date.

“The City may only permit two medical cannabis dispensaries,” reads the resolution. “The number of the remaining types of medical cannabis facilities permitted in the City may be limited or restricted by resolution of the City Council.”

Council members disagreed as to whether two dispensaries was too much.

“This is new to Hollister, our community, and we’re going to have two dispensaries,” said Councilwoman Mickie Luna. “Why not have just one? See how that works out so that we can go ahead and maybe in the second year, we can move on the second one.”

Councilman Roy Sims said he believed that limiting the ordinance to one dispensary starts to get away from what the United States was founded on.

“I believe it’s important to have some competition so those two entities push each other to be better,” Sims said.

Mayor Ignacio Velazquez said the ordinance includes two dispensaries to eliminate the monopoly of one dispensary without opening up the city to multiple dispensaries.

There was much discussion about zoning relating to where medical marijuana facilities can operate.

A section of the resolution states where medical cannabis facilities could be located. Dispensaries could go in the North Gateway, Airport Support and Industrial Business Park zoning districts. Cultivation and manufacturing facilities could be located in North Gateway Commercial, West Gateway, Industrial Business Park, Airport Support, Agriculture, Industrial, or Mixed Use zoning district, Airport and West Gateway, according to city documents.

Each medical cannabis facilities must have a setback a minimum of 600 feet from schools, conforming residential use and religious institutions, according to the resolution.

While the minimum setback of 600 feet from schools is required by state law, council members disagreed over the setback relating to residential use and religious institutions.

“In the event that a residential use or a religious institution locates within 600 feet of a medical cannabis facility after the medical cannabis dispensary was originally permitted to operate pursuant to this Chapter, the medical cannabis facility shall be a nonconforming use, ” Section 5.42.160G of the resolution reads.

Velazquez was the biggest advocate for leaving the 600-foot setback from residential use and religious institutions in the ordinance.

“I’ll repeat myself on this: if we all agree that from a school it should be 600 feet, why do we change our minds in the afternoon when the kids are home playing?” Velazquez asked. “Six hundred feet is 600 feet to me, and we should respect our families enough to give them that decency to make sure their kids can play without the odor.”

He continued to speak on the matter.

“I want to make sure we do not make the mistake that others have made by just kicking it open and then trying to fix it as everybody’s already moving in,” he said. “I can tell you right now, there’s plenty of properties throughout the city where people can go and start their business. There’s no doubt about that.”

There was also discussion over changing the age of who could work in a medical marijuana facility from 21 to 18.

“If you can vote at 18, I think 18 would be the proper age,” Luna said.
Sims said he didn’t have a problem leaving the working age at 21.

“I think a bartender has to be 21 to serve,” Sims said. “I think when you’re handling a medication that has the propensity to be used as recreational, which this medication does, the maturity of a 21-year old as opposed to 18 is a valid point.”

Council members will return to the issue at their next meeting Dec. 19 for a second reading and potential adoption.

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