Council still undecided on recreational pot

Decision remains tabled until further discussion

An agenda item that would have allowed recreational cannabis sales within Hollister city limits appeared as a shock to councilmembers and sparked debate among the council, staff and audience.

If approved, the measure would allow sales of recreational cannabis at the two facilities that are about to open their doors in Hollister for medical sales. The dispensaries are Monterey Bay Alternative Care, 773 San Felipe Road, and Higher Level Care, 1802 Shelton Drive.

Under the proposal, the “medical” classification would be removed from the city’s existing cannabis ordinance, and recreational and medical delivery services would be permitted through the already permitted cannabis retailers. However, the word “medical” had previously been removed from the ordinance when referring to cultivation, manufacturing and other cannabis businesses.

There was less dispute among council members at the Jan. 22 meeting about whether allowing cannabis to be sold in the city was wrong or right than there was about the approach taken by staff to amend the ordinance.

The council ultimately voted unanimously to table the discussion for 90 days, allowing for council members to speak to constituents in their districts and see the initial revenue reports of medicinal sales from Higher Level Care, and whether there still might be a recreational market for pot after the storefront opens sometime in the next 60 days.

At the council meeting, Mayor Ignacio Velazquez expressed shock when presented with the agenda item by city staff. He said at the council meeting that when reviewing the agenda prior to the meeting, he nearly jumped off his couch. “I cannot believe this was on here without one person calling me or any other council member and asking to bring this topic back up,” Velazquez said.

He pressed staff, asking whether or not businesses or lobbyists had come to the city and asked for the ordinance to be changed. City Attorney Bill Avera assured council members the decision to place the item on the agenda came from city staff on the cannabis review committee.

Avera said the staff was worried that with San Juan Bautista’s recent approval of a recreational ordinance, there would be a loss of revenue for Hollister.

“I’m not worried about losing a customer base that we’re not in the business of being in,” Velazquez told Avera. “We are not in the marijuana business; we’re in the public service business.”

Because California law no longer differentiates between recreational and medical cannabis use, Hollister Police Det. Chris Wells told the council that allowing sales at the two existing facilities would aid police officers in enforcement, especially when it came to unlicensed cannabis delivery. Medical cannabis sales are allowed to individuals 18 older, recreational sales are allowed to patrons 21 and older.

Council members still felt the issue needed more community discussion, and after Sal Palma, operator of High Level Care, proposed coming back to the council after his storefront had opened, Velazquez said he felt it was a reasonable compromise.

Mayor Pro Tem Marty Richman was equally skeptical about moving too quickly in allowing recreational sales, and he moved to defer the item for 90 days. Council members Carol Lenoir, Honor Spencer and Rolan Resendiz all agreed, hoping to gather more information from their constituents and city staff in the coming days.

The item is set to come back to the council at its March 4 meeting.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Undecided.. Its legal.. what’s the hold up? You could fix alot of roads and schools around here. People are getting it anyway. Just another reason to keep Hollister money in Hollister.

  2. Hear me out… Name Hollister the Medical Cannabis Capital of California; as you open up 10 dispensaries. It will only grow. Imagine how many celebrities, pro -athletes and entertainers would come through Hollister just to see what all the huff is about. Ladies and gentleman of the Hollister City Council,….Earthquake Capitol of the World makes no money hardly.
    With the new Highway coming in…. Think about it.. !!!! What ever you decide, make Hollister family friendly.Dave and Busters?, Minor league baseball team? Bowling alley? Anything to keep Hollister residents here during the weekends, and during the week. I know more people need to live here to make most of these business ventures realistic… on paper.

  3. A few amenities are would be great, especially the roads (ugh – my poor tires can’t take much more of these blooming pot holes – no pun intened), another middle and high school would be wonderful too for our population of children, and some modern shopping and resturants would be great too! But lets not go overboard either – Hollister is a semi small town, also a farming community. That is its beauty…one not to lose. We seem to slowly becoming a different city that can’t handle the traffic and citizens it already provides for, let alone invite more to live or visit. We have water problems, road problems, etc. It is already legal for these businesses to dispense recreational cannabis, now it’s up to all of Hollister to be smart in how they use the profits from the sales tax to make our city a better place for all who live here.

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