City selects second cannabis dispensary

Monterey Bay Alternative Medicine to move forward

Cannabis

The Hollister City Council on Monday selected Monterey Bay Alternative Medicine to take the city’s second, and last, medical cannabis dispensary slot.

“It was an arduous application process, but we’re very happy we were chosen,” said Bob Blodgett in a phone call Tuesday. Blodgett runs the collective with his wife Lonna and operates a medical cannabis dispensary in Del Rey Oaks. “We started our collective in San Benito County where our ranch is. We’re so happy to have our dispensary in Hollister, which we consider our home.”

The other medical dispensary license went to Purple Cross Rx in August.

Hollister’s medical cannabis ordinance only allows two dispensaries to operate within city limits.

Hollister native Taylor Rodrigues hoped he would get the second retail license for Haven Dispensary but there were concerns about his proposed location at 191 San Felipe Road, which is near a McDonald’s Restaurant.

“I like [Haven Executive Director Taylor Rodrigues],” said resident Gary Cameron during the meeting. “I think he’s a great guy, but it’s about location.”

California State University Monterey Bay professor Brad Barbeau spoke up for his former student, Rodrigues, but it was not enough to sway the council.

“I think as this happens, this is a business where you really want the people who get the dispensaries to follow the rules, not just the letter but the spirit of the rules,” said Barbeau.

Before the meeting, Rodrigues had alleged the city administration was not following its own processes.

“I feel that since the scoring was done, the process hasn’t been followed as it was laid out,” said Rodrigues. “I’ve submitted over half a dozen letters, made multiple public comments, met with city staff and council members to put forth my concerns about the scoring done incorrectly.”

Rodrigues had two appeals before city council: one to move forward in the dispensary process and the other to address incomplete applications submitted by other parties, among other claims.

Both appeals failed to move forward.

City Manager Bill Avera explained by phone Tuesday that city staff visited dispensaries in San Jose during the drafting of the ordinance, which set the bar for what he wanted in Hollister.

“I believe it’s our job that we provide the council with our recommendations,” Avera said. The city council did not select the two dispensary applicants the staff had recommended—Higher Level of Care and Layla’s Landing.

“Since the city council selected two other businesses here in town to be dispensaries, it’s up to the city and staff to make sure those businesses operate to that level. We want to make sure Purple Cross Rx and Monterey Bay Alternative Medicine operate good, successful businesses.”
Avera continued: “With seven people competing for two spots, we knew five people were probably going to be disappointed.”

Applicants left disappointed included a trio of businesses proposed for a newly renovated warehouse at 817 Industrial Drive in the center of the city.

Despite being located in an appropriately zoned area and conforming to the 150-foot setback rule mandated by the ordinance, the address raised concerns among some members of the public and Mayor Velazquez because of its proximity to places where youth gather such as Crossfit San Benito and Rovella’s Gym.

“I just want to reiterate that all businesses that are there have been there,” Lisa Rovella said during the public hearing. “We struggled, we’ve suffered, we’ve tried to make our businesses grow. It’s hard to gauge this new thing coming in because it’s new and it’s hard for us that have children coming to our business to say ‘yeah this is great’ when it might not be. We just want to say take a second look and maybe not do it.”

Steve Becerra, a resident who’s spoken out during the city’s entire cannabis process, said the council had been hearing from the public on locations and zoning since June 2016.

“Many have told you Industrial Drive, primarily due to the family and youth-focused businesses on the same short street, they have real concerns about any type of marijuana operation,” Becerra said. “You did not hear these concerns for the other industrial areas that you recently allowed these operations to continue. There’s good reason: because these types of family and youth-oriented businesses aren’t nearby.”

Vice Mayor Karson Klauer and Councilman Jim Gillio recused themselves for all cannabis votes due to conflicts of interest or perceived conflicts of interest.

Additionally, City Attorney Soren Diaz recused himself due to his relation to local law firm L+G, which has represented cannabis applicants in the past, though Diaz himself has not.

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