Council approves adult-use cannabis

Recreational dispensaries still prohibited

The Hollister City Council unanimously voted Monday night to allow recreational cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, and testing businesses to operate within city limits. Recreational, or adult-use, dispensaries and retail sales are still prohibited, but medical cannabis will be available from two dispensaries—Purple Cross Rx at 1785 San Felipe Road and Monterey Bay Alternative Medicine at 773 San Felipe Road—when they open for operation later this year.

“Adult-use cultivation, manufacturing, testing, and distribution are permitted only within the zoning districts currently approved for medical facilities,” said Maria Mendez with the city’s development services department. “Retail sales for adult-use are prohibited throughout the city.”

Last December, council members previously approved an urgency ordinance that prohibited cultivation, processing, manufacturing, distribution, testing, and sale of non-medical cannabis in the City of Hollister. The 45-day lifespan of the urgency ordinance gave city staff enough time to come up with a list of recreational changes that include compliance with the State of California for non-medical, personal cultivation and no outdoor cultivation permitted.

Additionally, all locally-made cannabis products must be identified with an A for adult-use and an M for medical.

“I don’t have much of an issue with where the industry has gone,” Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velazquez said at the Feb. 5 meeting. “I understand cultivators and manufacturers have to compete in the market.”

Up until now, the City of Hollister has only allowed medical cannabis businesses to apply and move through the city’s application and permitting process.

Council members previously approved a medical cannabis ordinance in December 2016 on the heels of Proposition 64, which legalized recreational cannabis throughout the state. Since then, the city has approved two medical dispensaries within city limits, as well as a multitude of cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution businesses.

“Since this ordinance was passed originally in the end of 2016, the state’s made a lot of changes both to Prop 64 and the medical cannabis regulations, merging them together,” said Sal Palma of Hollister Holistics, a local cannabis business that holds multiple use permits for cultivation and manufacturing.

In June 2017, Governor Jerry Brown approved Senate Bill 94, which repealed the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act and consolidated medical and recreational cannabis under the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation Safety Act.

“Essentially what they’ve done is they’ve taken a medication that once required a prescription and made it available over the counter to those over the age of 21,” Palma said. “It doesn’t make it any less of a medication, it just requires that one not have to go get a prescription or doctor’s recommendation to obtain it.”

Others in the local cannabis industry came to speak in support of allowing recreational, adult-use cannabis on the supply chain side of the industry.

“We are very strongly in support of the cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution for the adult-use as you go along,” said Gary Coates on behalf of Monterey Bay Alternative Medicine, who was awarded a permit last October to operate a medical cannabis dispensary at 773 San Felipe Road. “In the future, this will probably come back to questions for the dispensaries. This evening, we don’t want to slow this process down and feel this needs to move forward. We would just like you to be aware that in the future we’d like to come back to you for consideration of dispensary use for adult sales of cannabis products.”

While Velazquez indicated during the meeting that he would be willing to talk about recreational dispensaries down the line, he said he felt the city was not ready yet.

The local business community also supported adult-use, as shown in a Feb. 1 letter to the city council from San Benito County Chamber of Commerce President Juli Vieira.

“For this new industry to thrive in Hollister, add more jobs for our residents, and inject millions of dollars into the local economy, the council should now expand that ordinance to include recreational licensing for cultivators, manufacturers, and dispensaries,” Vieira wrote on behalf of the chamber and its over 380 members. “As you are aware, being ahead on this issue is important. If you play the waiting game and bypass allowing recreation licensing, all of your businesses will go to surrounding cities that will allow it, in turn capturing all of the additional tax revenues that you kindly passed to them.”

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