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GOVERNMENT

City of Napa planning commission supports adult-use cannabis sales in city

From the Napa News Now: Check out the stories Napa County residents are talking about this week series
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An ordinance permitting adult-use retail sales of cannabis now only needs Napa City Council approval to become active in the city of Napa. 

The city’s planning commission voted 4-0 on Thursday — with commissioner Gordon Huether absent — to recommend the Napa City Council approve an amendment to the city’s cannabis ordinance that would allow for the sale of cannabis products to customers 21 years old or older.

The amendment would come into effect 30-days following city council approval. The city council has already voted 4-1 — with only council member Liz Alessio opposing — to direct staff to prepare the amendment back in October.

A discussion about updating the city’s cannabis ordinance was prioritized as a policy goal by the city council in March this year.

Only medical sales of cannabis are currently permitted in the city. That means customers need a physician-approved medical-use card to purchase cannabis products at any of the city’s six dispensaries.

Most California residents — 57% statewide and 61% of Napa residents — voted to legalize recreational cannabis use in the state in 2016. But most California cities still don’t allow adult-use sales.

Two representatives of cannabis retailers told the city’s planning commission that opening up adult-use sales will boost business considerably and bring increased tax revenue to the city.

Caity Maple, vice president of government affairs for Perfect Union — and a 2022 Sacramento City Council candidate — said at the meeting that Perfect Union worked with the city of Marysville a few years ago to create an adult-use ordinance, which was added to the city’s existing medical-use ordinance. The result, she said, was a huge boost in sales for the company’s Marysville location.

“The really amazing part of that is we actually tripled our sales within a few months,” Maple said. “That was a great benefit to the city, it was a great benefit to us as well, and we think it benefits the community.”

Aimee Henry, one of the owners of Napa Cannabis Collective, concurred with Maple. She said allowing adult-use sales will really benefit customers — including tourists who may be unaware of Napa’s cannabis regulations — because they won’t have to acquire a medical-use card or drive to another nearby city.

“Right now it’s just a silly barrier that people have to get a medical recommendation because all of the products are the same and everything they have access to is the same,” Henry said.

Henry said Napa Cannabis Collective currently has about 300 to 500 customers over the course of the month. If adult use is allowed, she anticipates that number to rise to up to 1,500 customers over the same time frame.

“We definitely have pent-up demand,” Henry said. “We plan on putting in our application within days, as soon as it passes City Council.”

Much of the discussion from the planning commission focused on a request for a 2-year moratorium on any new adult-use cannabis retail applications from a coalition of five of Napa’s medical cannabis retailers: Napa Cannabis Collective, Harvest House of Cannabis, Perfect Union, Herbivore, and Abide.

Though most councilmembers expressed that they aren’t interested in enacting the proposed moratorium at the October meeting, two commissioners expressed support for a similar moratorium at the Thursday meeting.  

Henry said a moratorium would give the city time to decide whether or not to enact a cap on the number of dispensaries. The coalition letter that initially asked for the moratorium says it would also give current cannabis retailers a chance to stabilize financially following economic difficulties they’ve faced during the pandemic.

“Our thought process was, give the city time, give us time to catch up to the marketplace and then that also allows for public comment and observation to give an idea of if you want to put a cap in place later down the road and how many that cap should be if you decide to do that,” Henry said.

Commission chair Paul Kelley and commissioner Bob Massaro said they supported recommending a one-year moratorium. But the other commissioners opposed the recommendation because they said the marketplace should determine how business plays out.

Massaro said he supported the moratorium as a check-in on the cannabis retailers and how the situation with adult-use cannabis evolves in the city.

“Right now I just have the sense that, let’s see what happens; let’s make sure that it’s working,” Massaro said.

A vote to recommend the moratorium failed on a 2-2 vote.

About a dozen Napans have lived in a homeless community called "the Bowl" for years. This week they had to move out. All tents and structures will be demolished and the area cleared. Take a look at the scene, and the people, here.

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You can reach Edward Booth at (707) 256-2213.

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