The city was a bit hazy on details of new statewide cannabis rules.
After learning of mistakes in the state-mandated review process for new pot shops—including not noticing a public hearing as required—Hollister council members Monday pushed off a consideration that could establish rules for the two dispensaries allowed here.
In December, the city council approved a medical cannabis ordinance that lifted the city’s ban on dispensaries. After months of deliberations, council members decided to cap the dispensary limit to two facilities.
California voters passed Proposition 64 last November, which legalized recreational cannabis throughout the state. The law makes it legal for adults 21 and over to possess, buy, use, share and transport up to one ounce of cannabis. The state is supposed to have the framework in place and start issuing permits by January 2018.
The new law also removes a 600-foot setback from conforming residential use and religious institutions, makes dispensaries able to operate in light industrial-zoned areas, removes mixed-use zoning and changes the working age from 21 to 18. State law still requires that all medical cannabis facilities have at least a 600-foot setback from schools.
Monday’s meeting was supposed to focus on ratifying two dispensaries, Higher Level of Care and Layla’s Landing, to move forward in the permit process. The council previously adopted an administrative procedure for issuing regulatory permits relating to medical cannabis facilities. The application period lasted March 15 to April 17.
City Manager Bill Avera asked council members to move the item to a future meeting due to his mistake.
“As you can see by the agenda, I was preparing to try and have the city council ratify the staff selection for the medical cannabis dispensary,” Avera said.
The application process requires a public hearing for applicants, he said.
“Tonight wasn’t noticed as a public hearing; it was just on the resolution,” he said. “That essentially was my first mistake.”
City staff is prepared to hold a special meeting to include the public hearing on June 26, Avera said.
“We hope not only to accomplish the dispensary goal, but also the goal of giving the regulatory permits to those applications or applicants who are seeking cultivation and manufacturing permits in existing facilities,” Avera said. “Hopefully, we can get through those two components on June 26. It’s scheduled to be at 6 p.m.”
Numerous residents spoke during public comment, most notably on one of the dispensary locations. The meeting agenda identified the Layla’s Landing dispensary address as 817 Industrial Drive, which is located near Crossfit San Benito and Rovella’s Gym.
Steve Rovella, among others, made the case that youth under 18 attend his facilities and that having a dispensary at the nearby address would be too close.
“Since we have a lot of children come to our athletic club, as well as the fitness facility next to us and the bounce club, I didn’t think it would be appropriate to have a medical marijuana dispensary unit in the proximity of a lot of children in that area,” Rovella said. “It’s pretty obvious, I think. All of you have kids so I don’t know if I want to expose them to that.”
Resident Jack Kirk, a re-occurring speaker during cannabis-related items, claimed during public comment that one of the dispensaries paid significant cash to secure the 817 Industrial Drive property.
“Who would do that?” Kirk said. “With a little nod that maybe they got a license coming or something? I’m concerned that perhaps someone on the council is giving them the nod that they’ll push it through.”
This drew outrage from the diaz, especially Councilman Ray Friend.
“Sit down!” Friend said. “I’m not going to stand for this and sit here and listen to …”
Mayor Ignacio Velazquez tried to calm the situation.
“Let’s make sure we’re not making accusations,” Velazquez said to Kirk. “Councilmember Friend, hang on. Please, we don’t want to make accusations.”
Councilwoman Mickie Luna addressed Kirk’s claims after public comment.
“I just want to address something,” Luna said. “We’re city council members. We’re elected by the people to serve the people. We are not here to make deals behind closed doors.”
Luna said she’d been honest and upfront with everything done in regard to cannabis.
“We have not made a decision,” she said. “The matter of the fact that you can stand there at that podium and yell at us, because some of you do yell, it’s not acceptable either. We’re human beings making decisions for a lot of people, but we do listen. We do listen.
“So don’t get on that podium and start yelling at us and telling us that we’ve done something wrong because we haven’t made any decisions. We’re studying it.”