Chico council pushes back on additional cannabis delivery

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CHICO — The Chico City Council voted 4-3 against receiving more information regarding additional cannabis delivery services.

City Attorney Vincent Ewing brought an item before the board Tuesday requesting that it use its legislative power to allow for additional delivery services within Chico in an effort to provide additional tax revenue.

After giving the green light for no more than three cannabis storefronts in the city, the recent discussions the council has taken part in have revolved around bringing in non-storefront businesses related to the industry such as testing, manufacturing and distribution. The item presented before the board Tuesday would have allowed for delivery-only businesses to come in.

Ewing presented the item before the board during its meeting but was quickly met with some pushback by Councilor Sean Morgan.

Morgan compared regulating cannabis deliveries to that of liquor stores.

“We don’t allow (liquor stores) all over the place for a very good reason,” Morgan said. “We don’t allow the free enterprise system just to be completely clean and regulation-free for a good reason. I don’t think now before we’ve even tried to see what happens with the three establishments that can do deliveries. I don’t see how flooding the market with more delivery businesses is in any way a good idea.”

Councilor Alex Brown said she had concerns over potentially allowing a few companies to control the market for cannabis in Chico.

“Despite the moral arguments that often get made in this space, I think this conversation needs to go far beyond whether cannabis is good or bad,” Brown said. “Where we are is exploring the best method for regulating a legal industry and getting as much benefit from it with as little harm as possible. Creating monopolies of businesses is never a good idea. You’re certainly benefiting those who get one of the delivery opportunities by allowing them to control the market in Chico including pricing and availability, but you’re not benefitting the majority of Chico with that model.”

“Contrary to the belief of some people on this dais, more delivery operation does not mean more cannabis on the street; it means more local options for consumers; it means they get a variety of access to business and the products that they want to buy and the business models that they want to support,” Brown said. “It also means better economic outcomes for Chico — more jobs and fairer pricing due to the overall healthy competition created within the market.”

Councilors Michael O’Brien and Dale Bennet backed Morgan with O’Brien citing concerns over moving too quickly.

During the public comment on the item, Charles Burton, who is one of the local entrepreneurs hoping to open a storefront, spoke in favor of allowing for additional deliveries as it would allow for those who are denied a license to fall back on a delivery-only model.

A consistent concern from councilors was cannabis deliveries from outside of the city and how to halt that in favor of local businesses. Once the licenses have been distributed to the three new businesses and they are approved for delivery, the city will then be able to regulate outside delivery, though how that will be done is still uncertain.

Brown suggested that the council ask Ewing to research more information on how to regulate the outside deliveries to lighten the concerns.

Ultimately the vote garnered support from Brown, Mayor Andrew Coolidge and Vice Mayor Kasey Reynolds and was opposed by Morgan, O’Brien and Bennet making Councilor Deepika Tandon the swing vote. After some consideration Tandon voted against receiving additional information, striking down the item.

With the additional information off the table, Brown asked that the agenda item to allow for more delivery businesses to come back before the board once the three storefronts are open and operating. Coolidge asked Brown for a timeframe to which she said within a month after approval.

Ewing and City Clerk Debbie Presson informed the board that the item could not be brought back before the board unless a member of the majority vote requested it come back.

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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