The debate over the June 5 vote on Measure C—a tax on cannabis production outside of San Benito County’s two cities—unofficially kicked off Apr. 25 at the quarterly meeting of the Hollister Downtown Association.
At the gathering at Paine’s restaurant in Hollister, a panel included Victor Gomez, the President of Pinnacle Consulting who also is managing the “Yes on Measure C” campaign; Sean Kali-rai, president of the Silicon Valley Cannabis Alliance; county Cannabis Affairs Manager Maria Mendez, and Hollister Police Department Lieutenant Dan Winn.
Gomez and Kali-rai took the most questions, as Measure C dominated the question-and-answer period of the meeting. Several members of the community, including members of the Committee to Protect San Benito County—which opposes the cannabis tax—were skeptical of expanding the influence of cannabis in the region. Attendees who left the gathering were greeted with No on Measure C cards on their car windshields.
“For business owners, we need to decide what we’re going to buy, and when you’re talking to investors, is this what you want the county to be?” said Jack Kirk. “Some of us who live in the county do not want greenhouses next to us which will bring down our property value. We don’t want the traffic that comes from the trimmers who work there either. We need to decide, because once that money comes in, they will want to be in control.”
Measure C is the county-wide, unincorporated-area, cannabis tax proposal, where voters of unincorporated San Benito County, not those who don’t live in Hollister or San Juan Bautista, will decide to impose a tax on various cannabis businesses. Recreational cannabis became legal in California Jan.1, and medical marijuana has been legal since 1996, with individual municipalities given the right to ban, regulate and tax the new industry.
The vote will not determine whether cannabis business of any kind will be allowed in unincorporated San Benito County, but if the county decides to go ahead and allow cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, etc., a mechanism will be in place to collect the tax.
“Hollister is critical to the industry, like San Carlos, who passed everything but retail; but nobody is going there because the land is too expensive,” Kali-rai said.
Kali-rai laid out of a vision of Hollister, San Benito, and Monterey Counties building on their agricultural legacies in becoming the place to grow and process a new kind of crop, cannabis. With available land, the proximity to key transportation hubs, and the longstanding agricultural know-how, Kali-rai warned that if San Benito County is not ready for it, the cannabis industry would go elsewhere.
“There is about $105 million in sales in San Jose a year with 30 to 50 percent growth this year,” Kali-rai said. “This area does what it does best, and that’s not retail, it’s agriculture, and if it’s not allowed here, it will go somewhere else.”