Marijuana
Ron Hilton, Dreamstime.com

The future of the cannabis industry in Napa County and its cities is still uncertain despite the passing of Proposition 64 last year. Local leaders met again this week to discuss the possibilities during a meeting of the Napa Countywide Cannabis Roundtable.

Some members of the roundtable, including Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Belia Ramos, recently headed out to Oakland to tour cannabis-related facilities. Ramos’ concern after touring the facilities was that there is very little regulation when it comes to marijuana edibles.

“It’s mostly an industry that’s left to its own devices,” she said at the meeting held in Napa on Friday.

American Canyon Mayor Leon Garcia echoed her concern, saying the packaging for edibles – including lollipops and baked goods – isn’t child-proof like prescription drugs are. Instead, he said, they look appealing to children.

Paul Dohring, St. Helena City Councilman, said he was concerned about the lack of testing facilities.

If the number of testing labs doesn’t increase, it could mean delays, said Conrad Gregory, director of government relations at Harborside Health Center in Oakland, one of the toured facilities. “Testing will be required for everything,” he said.

Harborside isn’t the average dispensary, Gregory said. In addition to medicinal marijuana, the health center offers wellness classes like yoga as well as support programs for things like cancer and substance misuse. The center is already busy with limited parking at both its facilities and expects to see a new demographic of recreational users when the new law goes into effect, Gregory said. Traffic will see at least a 50 percent increase if not doubling, he said.

The potential boom in business is concerning to Calistoga Mayor Chris Canning, roundtable co-chair, who is afraid of the burden that will be put on small municipalities like Calistoga.

If retailers have to be a certain distance away from schools, preferably in a commercial location with adequate parking, there are limited opportunities in Calistoga, Canning said.

The permit process was also a concern of his since, as it was explained during the meeting, it seems that the state would like local jurisdictions to act as a filter – meaning that retailers would get their permits first from local jurisdictions before attempting to receive their state permits.

Vehicle traffic and parking was another hot topic of the meeting, leading Ramos to ask Gregory if Harborside has considered having a drive-thru pharmacy. The question as to whether or not that was legally a possibility didn’t seem to be answered.

Despite being well attended, only a few individuals spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting.

“Will they be issuing cultivation permits in 2018?” asked Donalee Shackleford. Supervisor Ryan Gregory, roundtable co-chair, said he doesn’t know yet.

Napa resident Robin Rowe also spoke, just to let her local officials know how much residents need cannabis-related facilities in the county. Rowe has an epileptic daughter who takes medical marijuana. When she needs more, Rowe is required to go into other counties to get her daughter’s medicine.

“We’re way behind the times,” Rowe said after the meeting. “The medicine is a lifesaver … I wish they’d hurry up.” By having retailers in the county, she said, taxpayers will not only save money but there will be an increase in revenue.

The roundtable will meet again on Sept. 25 to discuss public health and safety, and tax, revenue and banking issues.

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Maria Sestito is the Napa Valley Register public safety reporter. She covers breaking news as well as crime and courts. Maria came to the Napa Valley Register in 2015 after working at as a reporter and photographer at The Daily News in Jacksonville, NC. S