Sonoma City Council streamlines cannabis dispensary process

The Sonoma City Council adopted a pair of resolutions on Wednesday streamlining the application process for prospective commercial cannabis operators in the city limits.

The council voted 5-0 to amend the city cannabis regulations with changes city staff expects will result in a certification process about 10 weeks shorter than previous — largely by shortening the Request For Proposal (RFP) response time and staff review times.

Additionally, the council directed staff to eliminate the requirement for applicants to identify a location for their dispensary prior to certification, leaving approval of a site to the Planning Commission phase of obtaining an operating license.

The City of Sonoma currently allows for two walk-in dispensaries. The first, Sparc, was approved by the council in late 2020 and is expected to open in March 2022.

As part of the motion to streamline the process, the council also put a timeline on when that RFP process for applicants for a second commercial dispensary certificate might begin. The council directed staff to wait until six months after Sparc opens before considering the next RFP. The timeframe would allow city staff to evaluate the potential impacts on traffic and parking following Sparc’s opening, and in the meantime free up staff time for other council priorities.

Councilmember Bob Felder supported the six-month window following Sparc’s launch before returning to a potential second dispensary.

“It’s not that I am opposed to a second dispensary by any means, but the timeline for when that is accomplished does impact a number of other things that need to be done in the city,” said Felder. “Things that are going to affect the quality of life for everybody in Sonoma.”

Councilmember Kelso Barnett agreed that the timing of another RFP was an issue.

“The question isn’t if we’re going to have a second dispensary, it is when,” Barnett said. “I do also worry about staff time and capacity.”

Newly seated Councilmember Sandra Lowe said she looks forward to the second dispensary and particularly emphasized the benefiting tax revenue for the city.

“The bottom line for me is to collect the taxes,” said Lowe. “I hope that eventually we’ll have two dispensaries and they will make a lot of money and we will be able to do wonderful things for the people of Sonoma.”

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