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American Canyon is working on criteria for issuing cannabis business licenses following approval of a new ordinance allowing certain recreational marijuana operations in industrial areas. This photo shows a worker who is trimming cannabis plants in Ontario, Canada.  

The American Canyon City Council has established an informal committee to help determine the criteria for awarding business licenses to new recreational cannabis operations in the city’s industrial district.

In September, the council passed an ordinance legalizing companies to open in the Green Island Industrial District for indoor commercial cultivation, manufacturing, testing and delivery of cannabis products via non-storefront operations. It did not allow dispensaries or storefront retail cannabis businesses in American Canyon.

As part of the new ordinance, the City Council agreed to develop ways of filtering applicants for cannabis licenses. The city will issue only six licenses initially, while the new cannabis industry gets underway.

The intent was to “ease” the introduction of cannabis businesses into American Canyon, said Community Development Director Brent Cooper. Also, officials heard from existing non-cannabis businesses in Green Island that there is a low vacancy rate in the area, creating concern among owners that new cannabis operations “may out price existing businesses and then displace them,” Cooper said.

At their Oct. 2 meeting, council members adopted a resolution creating a “Cannabis Business Criteria Advisory Committee.”

The committee will consist of one council member, one planning commissioner, one cannabis industry representative, the police chief, plus consultants and staff as needed.

Councilmember Mark Joseph recommended the committee also include a citizen-at-large representative, perhaps even a resident “who wasn’t enchanted” with the new cannabis ordinance to hear that perspective since the community seemed divided over legalizing recreational marijuana businesses.

Councilmember David Oro agreed with Joseph, saying “it’s important to include somebody from the community.” Councilmember Kenneth Leary concurred with the idea.

But the council ultimately agreed to create the ad hoc committee without a citizen representative based on timing concerns.

The new cannabis ordinance goes into effect in mid-October, and Cooper said it was important for the criteria committee to meet quickly and make its recommendations to the City Council before its next meeting on Oct. 16.

Adding a resident to the committee could have potentially slowed it down from meeting in the event the city was flooded with requests from community members to join it, Cooper said.

Hearing this concern, the council voted 4-1 to establish the committee with only the originally proposed members. Joseph voted against the resolution.

But after the Oct. 2 meeting, city officials decided to push back the committee’s timeline. Instead of making recommendations in time for the council’s Oct. 16 meeting, the committee will be required to do so by Nov. 20.

Cooper said at the Planning Commission’s Oct. 4 meeting that finding a time for the committee to meet before Oct. 16 proved difficult. He added that the city will begin accepting applications for cannabis business licenses on Jan. 2.

The resolution authorizing the committee initially included language that barred the cannabis industry representative serving on it from applying for a cannabis license for 24 months. The intent of the restriction was to prevent any potential conflict of interest on the industry person’s part.

But Anne Steinhauer, consulting executive director for the Napa Valley Cannabis Association, said her group strongly opposed the 24-month provision.

“My jaw hit the ground” when we read it, said Steinhauer. “This was surprising and disappointing.”

The council agreed to eliminate the restriction because the committee will only suggest criteria to the council, which will ultimately decide the factors for screening applicants.

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American Canyon Eagle editor

Noel Brinkerhoff has been editor of the American Canyon Eagle since 2014. Prior to that he covered state politics in Sacramento for the California Journal.