With all the new cannabis businesses starting up in Hollister, who is in charge of overseeing it all? The City of Hollister’s new Cannabis Affairs Division.
“On behalf of the city, we want to inform the community that the rules and regulations that are in place for medical cannabis, and potentially adult-use, are drafted to protect surrounding land uses, safety, and most importantly their well-being,” Cannabis Affairs Manager Maria Mendez said, who took on the position last November.
The Cannabis Affairs Division, a branch of the city’s Development Services Department, processes cannabis business applications and ensures compliance of said businesses within city limits. Staff are also responsible for staying updated with state rules and regulations.
Cannabis businesses have worked with the city on establishing legal operations since the Hollister City Council adopted a medical cannabis ordinance in December 2016. Since then, numerous businesses have been approved for cultivation, manufacturing, testing, and distributing.
Earlier this month, council members amended the ordinance to allow recreational, or adult-use, cannabis businesses to operate, excluding dispensaries.
Mendez said that the city has yet to receive a strictly adult-use application.
“Operators are held to high standards through thorough in-depth investigations,” Mendez said. “We do that so cannabis businesses are held to the highest level of business practice and professionalism. I believe the City of Hollister has dedicated staff to make this happen.”
As manager of the division, Mendez is main city contact for the blossoming legal cannabis industry. She is currently the only member of the division who spends 100 percent of her time coordinating cannabis efforts.
“As more businesses receive their regulatory permits I expect to get some additional help,” she said.
The Hollister City Council approved hiring six people in several departments at a Sept. 5 meeting to help with local cannabis regulation. The cannabis affairs division is structured to work with members of various city departments, including building, planning, IT and finance.
“The idea with creating the six positions is to hire those as annual revenues are collected,” Mendez said. “Currently myself, a member of the finance department, and assigned officers within the police department and fire are the only positions filled at this time. The next position to be filled will like be an IT staff member.”
Hollister Police Lt. Dan Winn said the department’s involvement with cannabis affairs is based on making safety and security recommendations on locations, applicants, and employees.
“Our top goal is to make sure these products are handled properly so they do not end up in the hands of children,” Winn said. “This starts by keeping the products from being stolen and sold by the criminal element.”