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April 3, 2020

Greenfield City Council discusses possible changes to marijuana permits

No retail operators in town after three expirations

GREENFIELD — Greenfield City Council reviewed and discussed future directions for the city’s marijuana dispensary permits during its regular meeting on Feb. 11.

Though the city has previously issued three permits for dispensaries, none have started operations. The city has only seen cultivation and manufacturing operations go through with other permits, a total of 13 of which have been previously issued for cultivation, manufacturing or distribution.

The existing dispensary permits were issued on an annual basis and have expired.

The purpose of the discussion was for city staff to gain insight into what the current council thinks of the existing permits and processes. And, while those processes have been defined, council members were able to give considerations that would be applied as conditions for future retail operation permits.

“What I would like to see is cancel out these three and possibly issue one for now,” said Mayor Lance Walker of the dispensary permits.

Council Member Angela Untalon stated her concern for the need for education.

“There was some sort of agreement with the city and the cannabis people that there would be educational forums, and they would be engaged in the community, and I don’t see much of that going on,” Untalon said. “As we move forward with this, I would really like to see that being done maybe two or three times per year.”

Among issues brought up were possible teen misuse of vape products, with Council Member Robert Tipton quoting a statistic that as many as 25 percent of teens might vape everyday. The council discussed that while retailers would be required to sell legitimate and regulated products, teens could abuse those products, especially if they’ve had no education on vaping.

“As a councilwoman, I see the benefit. But as a mom, I see it differently,” Untalon said. “I’m going to admit, I’m torn.”

Untalon added, “This is something that we need to discuss, not just amongst ourselves, but with the community. Definitely get their input and see what they would like moving forward.”

“I know the school district shied away from any type of education,” said Walker of the local schools spearheading educational forums. “So we have to do that.”

Untalon noted with the city taking the lead on such forums, the police department could be involved. She stated the need for “continuous education, especially for the parents.”

She added, “I’m a young parent and there’s things that I find out. I’m in shock.” In that regard, her recommendation was, “Definitely let’s get something in writing that says continuous education forums.”

Tipton commented on numbers of permits, saying, “The Bureau of Marijuana Control is suggesting a limit of one marijuana dispensary for every two liquor licenses within a city. Obviously that’s too high.”

Walker said transparency was important to community members he’s spoken with.

“We’re approaching almost $2 million received now,” Walker said of tax revenue. “We need to be really transparent and let people know what we’re doing with the funds that we are collecting.”

“Talking openly, the illicit industry of marijuana is in our streets,” said John Huerta during public comment. “So the choice is really yours if you want that to continue in a certain degree, or do you want it to be in tune with law enforcement and laws of the state of California? It’s all up to you.”

One of the interested parties in obtaining a retail permit is Flora California, which already operates a greenhouse in the city.

“I think we should consider Flora has invested a large amount of dollars into our community and properties and providing jobs in the cannabis industry, and so I think it should be considered,” said Huerta during public comment. He cautioned, “No. 1 should be public safety, and surveillance cameras, and security guards at these proposed dispensaries.”

“If we do move forward with a dispensary, we’d be the only South County dispensary, that’s going to be huge for Greenfield,” Untalon said.

The council did not vote on the matter, as it was only scheduled discussion. Meanwhile, the council of neighboring King City is expected to move forward with code changes to allow cannabis storefront dispensaries during its next meeting on Feb. 25.

Greenfield Council Member Angela Untalon stresses the importance of community education forums and a need to have them as a condition for future marijuana dispensary permits.
Sean Roney
Sean Roney
Sean Roney is the reporter for King City Rustler, Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers education, government and general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.