The city’s current ordinance requires a rigorous vetting of operations, with detailed proposals from applicants, a city review committee, promises of “community benefits” from the applicant and a whopping non-refundable $11,000 application. (Such requirements aren’t unique to Sonoma, by the way, as many cities that allow cannabis shops also demand they adhere to stricter regulatory requirements than other “high risk” businesses such as jewelry shops and bars.)
Measure Y supporters, however, argue that such city imposed regulations place an unfair burden on the cannabis industry, when other local businesses aren’t required to woo the council in such a way. “Measure Y businesses will not go unregulated,” the ballot argument in favor of Measure Y states. “They will be fully vetted and regulated by the State of California.”
Some city officials, just as some residents, still approach cannabis from a pre-legalization mentality – the idea that some pot shops are run by rascals, staffed by burnouts and patronized by ne’er-do-wells. Fair or not, it’s a perception that exists, and accounts for why many cities place such permit restrictions on the industry.
That said, perhaps the new mentality should be that legalized cannabis dispensaries are potentially lucrative businesses managed by savvy entrepreneurs.
That, at least, is the signal we get from Sparc, which seems to be doing what it can to hold onto the retail-cannabis monopoly it potentially has under the city’s current cannabis ordinance. Two of the five signees of the “rebuttal argument” against Measure Y on the ballot have business relationships with Sparc – Mike Benzinger sells his biodynamic cannabis to Sparc; Michael Coats handles Sparc’s public relations in Sonoma. Coats was one of Measure Y’s most vocal supporters during 2018’s signature drive, but has since changed teams.
Another ballot-argument signee against the measure is Sonoma City Councilmember Rachel Hundley,