Napa’s ordinance allowing sales of medical marijuana is barely two months old, but some would-be sellers are asking the city to loosen its reins on where they can do business.
Tuesday night, the City Council will weigh changes to the cannabis ordinance it passed in December opening certain areas of Napa to dispensaries. Among them is a call to shrink from 1,000 to 600 feet the distance retailers must keep away from schools, day care centers, playgrounds and other gathering places for children, a step that could add to the two legal shop sites officials have identified so far.
The push by cannabis advocates to make more areas available for retailing comes as Napa fields about 20 calls a week from people asking about going into business within city limits, according to City Manager Mike Parness.
Several locations have become the shared focus for many of the would-be dispensary operators, he wrote council members last week – even though sales at several of them would be banned as Napa’s ordinance is written. Allowing marijuana retailing closer to schools is expected to lead to four more dispensary applications, joining three already under city evaluation.
The ordinance allows applicants to seek out retail locations for medicinal marijuana in areas zoned for industry, office parks and medical offices. However, Napa’s rule goes beyond California’s 600-foot buffer from child-friendly operations, setting a wider boundary that some cannabis advocates have called too restrictive.
Dispensaries also cannot be next door to or across the street from homes, and must be within 200 feet of the nearest public street to allow law enforcement officers to see the entrances.
Eight sites suggested for marijuana sales have been ruled out so far, according to Parness, in some cases by the barest of margins. One location on Enterprise Court is within 1,000 feet of a small portion of Napa Golf Course at Kennedy Park – even though Asylum Slough blocks foot access from one to the other.
Only two sites proposed by applicants so far have met all the conditions, Parness wrote in his memorandum to the council. An application currently under city review targets Second Street west of California Boulevard, while another application is expected on Enterprise Way north of Kaiser Road in the south of town.
Besides shrinking the buffer around youth-friendly properties, other possible changes to Napa’s dispensary law could include waiving the under-200-foot distance requirement from cannabis store entrances to streets, and allowing sales at more sites with natural barriers such as the Napa River separating them from schools or youth clubs. Currently, the law allows such exceptions to the 1,000-foot minimum when Highway 29 separates a youth site from a dispensary.
While debating the legalization of marijuana sales in November, councilmembers discussed a more lenient 600-foot buffer from child-friendly sites but went with the wider boundary to comply with state open-meeting law, which would have required rescheduling their vote on the ordinance.