Chico accepting applications for cannabis-related businesses

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The Chico City Council opted to begin the process of taking applications for new cannabis-related businesses through Jan. 7.

These potential businesses include non-storefront operations such as manufacturing, testing and distribution which use facilities that the public doesn’t have access to and do not take part in direct sales.

City Manager Mark Orme said that despite the city allowing for only three cannabis storefronts, there will be no limit to how many will be approved for the new operation types.

The decision was made during Tuesday’s meeting and city staff created an online application process that went live Wednesday morning. Orme said staff had the website ready for applicants within the first hour of the workday.

“City staff is dedicated to ensuring the council directives are fulfilled quickly and expeditiously,” Orme said.

“We’ve opened the application process and look forward to seeing what applicants come forward.”

Councilor Alex Brown was one of the original officials who were on the committee that wrote the first ordinance which was ultimately changed as the council changed over time. The new version of the ordinance approved by the council focused solely on storefronts and delivery services.

“In my experience with this council, there has been a lot of fits and starts,” Brown said.

“I think cannabis is a prime example of giving the community a bit of whiplash. When the policy that was created by myself and my previous colleagues on the City Council continued through this council and they restricted what they were going to consider a storefront.”

Brown said that she was glad to see the expanded version of the ordinance finally come to fruition, but she still had concerns for the process as well as the timing.

“The decision to open (the application process) for two weeks starting now, in the holiday season, severely prioritizes out of the area, deep-pocketed businesses looking to operate in the city of Chico. One of the primary beliefs on the very bipartisan cannabis advisory committee was to prioritize local entrepreneurs.”

 
“Especially when talking about vertical integration. Two things that were fought for since the beginning of implementing policy are local control, the ability for the city to dictate how businesses operate and accountability to citizens and residents or organizations and businesses that operate here alongside them. The way this has happened has certainly not instilled a sense of trust and clarity in the process.”

Early in the meeting, Councilor Sean Morgan made it clear that he would not be approving any further delivery operations for cannabis in Chico.

“I’ve gone on record plainly being the most anti-cannabis person on this council,” Morgan said. “It is what it is. We have retail; we have the delivery; I don’t think we need any more of those things.”

Morgan went on to say he didn’t believe the legal cannabis market was doing well due to high taxing. He added he felt that the city should have only done distribution and manufacturing rather than allow storefronts.

Councilor Michael O’Brien took a different viewpoint from Morgan saying that he wanted to go forward with the dispensaries but hold off on distribution and manufacturing due to the high levels of THC that the businesses would be working with.

“I have concerns approving anything right now that does more harm to our young adults and those up to 25, even 30,” O’Brien said.

Brown said allowing for commercial cannabis businesses wasn’t just about creating revenue for the city but to allow for residents to have access to opening a business if they choose.

It was Mayor Andrew Coolidge who made the suggestion to open up for applications for manufacturing, distribution and lab testing for a two-week period.

At that point, Brown expressed her concern that local potential business owners who might be interested in applying wouldn’t have the time to prepare for the process necessary to meet the city’s guidelines.

“My concern with extended window is that we’re gonna get so many applications that we would flood the market,” Coolidge responded — adding that the window could be reopened later.

Applications for opening manufacturing, distribution or testing businesses can be found at chico.ca.us/post/commercial-cannabis-applications. The deadline for filing applications is 5 p.m. Jan. 7.

Because of the state’s new COVID-19 precautions, the meeting was only available through an online Zoom link and via Channel 11.

The Chico City Council mostly meets at 6 p.m. on the first and third Tuesday of the month at 421 Main St. Meetings are free and open to the public.

 

 

 

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