As California gets ready to issue business licenses for cannabis in the coming months, San Juan Bautista takes its first step towards allowing the new industry within city limits.
The San Juan Bautista City Council and Planning Commission held a joint meeting last week to discuss and take public comment on a cannabis ordinance that would be the first step in regulating commercial activity.
There is currently a ban on all cannabis sales, cultivation and delivery in the historic town.
“The ordinance lays the foundation for allowing cannabis operations, both medical and recreational or one, moving forward,” said Victor Gomez, president of Pinnacle Strategy, a consulting firm that is helping the city and San Benito County on their cannabis policy. “There is a second layer that comes after the ordinance.”
That second layer will include the rules, regulations, operating procedures and security measures for any potential cannabis businesses.
“When it comes to the rules and regulations, these operations will need surveillance accessible by the city and police,” Gomez said.
Discussions include keeping cannabis operations within zoned industrial areas outside of the downtown. Any cannabis cultivations would need to be inside a greenhouse or warehouse.
There would also be a 600-foot setback from youth facilities, which is also a state rule. Because of the city’s small size, this would prohibit a majority of cannabis commercial activity in the downtown area.
“Regardless of what we do on a local level, this is a state exclusion zone and we’re comfortable with that,” Mayor Chris Martorana said. “It covers the downtown, the schools, the church. It’s pretty broad.”
Planning Commissioner Darlene Boyd said she was concerned about land use restrictions and is open to cultivation in agriculture areas.
“I think they are too restrictive,” Boyd said. “I think we ought to look at expanding those outside sensitive areas. If we have an agriculture buffer and we’re talking about cultivation, that is ag behavior.”
Resident Mandisa Snodey said the City of San Juan Bautista doesn’t have to worry about converting black market cannabis operations into regulated ones.
“We can start from scratch,” Snodey said. “I think that puts us at a comparative advantage to San Benito County or the City of Hollister. It puts us ahead because we’re not having to adjust any current operations.”
While there was support for allowing cannabis businesses in the city, some residents cautioned officials not to get caught up in the gold rush.
“It’s time for you all to be cautious, careful and to make sure the city can oversee the complex issues in lifting the marijuana ban,” resident Rachel Ponce said. “The city’s limitations in staff and law enforcement have to be taken into consideration very carefully. Don’t rush into lifting the ban because of potential revenue. Mismanagement can ruin this community.”