By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN
WOODLAKE – For months City staff has been vetting potential dispensaries and cultivators while they work their way through the permitting and public hearing processes. On Monday, Jan. 22 four businesses leapt their final hurdle at the local level when the Council voted 4-1 to allow them to operate within the city limits. Council member Greg Gonzalez was the lone dissenting vote on all four resolutions.
Nobody from the public spoke against the businesses as many had last summer when the idea of cannabis businesses in the city were first being introduced. Then again this was last in multiple rounds of public hearings.
“To be fair, this is the third or fourth time we’ve had this public hearing and maybe people felt like they said what they needed to say,” community development director Jason Waters said.
Two of the four businesses approved on Monday were Valley Pure and Green Bean Pharm. Valley Pure will be located at 132 N. Valencia in downtown nearest to the Little Caesars. The City has indicated they would like dispensaries to be located in well traveled and centrally populated areas. Valley Pure’s location meets those requirements but they are far from opening, Waters says.
Their current location is largely gutted on the inside and needs quite a bit of work before they are operational. Green Bean Pharm is in a similar boat as well. According to their co-owner Michael Dunaway they plan to renovate the old High Sierra Lumber at 515 W. Naranjo Blvd. to make the exterior more appealing to customers and the community. There was some contention over Green Bean Pharm’s site from pastor John Dennis at the Presbyterian Church across the street. He noted the church holds AA and narcotics anonymous classes and having a marijuana dispensary across the street may be difficult for the attendants. He mentioned his concerns over Sunday school and after school programs, and message a dispensary sends to children.
Both dispensaries have a long way to go before opening for business but their cultivating and manufacturing counterparts, Green Smart and Top Crop, also approved last Monday are essentially starting from scratch. Green Smart located at 1049 W. Ropes near Twilight Park has been approved for three separate licenses; cultivation, manufacturing and distribution. They are currently working toward getting their infrastructure ready before constructing their building that meets Woodlake requirements which among other things much have a top notch video security system and be completely enclosed.
Top Crop at 457 S. Acacia on the south-eastern portion of town east of Bravo Lake. They have been approved for cultivation and manufacturing but not distribution. Waters says they are still working on breaking ground.
In terms of licensing, all of the four businesses have gone through the City. And they have had to apply separately for several licenses. For example Green Smart that plans to cultivate, manufacture and distribute applied for a cultivation license, a manufacturing license and a distribution license. And each business planning to do multiple services has to apply for multiple licenses at the State level as well. For businesses coming out of the local licensing phase the State has had them fill out forms for a temporary 120 day license while they process the long term license. Waters said the process has been somewhat informal.
Waters said he is receiving emails from the Bureau of Cannabis Control which oversees dispensaries, testing and distribution; the Department of Public Health which oversees cannabis manufacturing; and the Department of Food and Agriculture which oversees cultivation. And all the emails are for is just a confirmation the businesses were given the okay to operate in the City they are in.
The City Council also considered possible tax rates for different cannabis businesses. Voters passed a cannabis sales and use tax of up to 10 percent in gross receipts or $25 per square foot last November. That tax can be applied to retail, cultivation, manufacturing, distribution and testing. However, Woodlake has not yet been approached by a cannabis testing business. City staff offered up examples to the Council of what other cities and counties have levied on cannabis businesses. According to Waters San Jacquinto goes as high as 15% for retail, Coalinga goes as high as 10% and Sanoma County is as low as 2%.
Cities and counties generally apply a gross receipts tax for distributors while cultivators and manufacturers is a more of mixed bag.
The Council took no formal action on where to set their tax, nor did they indicate what they thought would be a fair rate.