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Sonoma town hall to give residents chance to weigh in on cannabis process

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CANNABIS TOWN HALL

The first public town hall in the City of Sonoma’s cannabis policy review will be held on Wednesday, March 28, at the Sonoma Community Center’s Andrews Hall, starting at 6:30 p.m.

A second workshop is scheduled for the same location on Wednesday, April 11.

The first Town Hall will focus on state regulations, overview of dispensaries, testing and manufacturing facilities, and options/issues for municipal regulation.

There will be a question/answer portion, an exercise for attendees to give specific feedback, and a public comment period.

Faced with the challenging task of balancing the 2016 state legalization of recreational marijuana with the at-times cautious civic character of Sonoma, the City Council has twice imposed a moratorium on commercial cannabis cultivation, as well as the use, distribution and sale of cannabis products.

The second moratorium terms out on Nov. 6 – the day before the fall election – by which time the city has promised a new community policy regarding medical and perhaps recreational cannabis. But the second moratorium also opened the door to legal delivery of cannabis to Sonoma’s medical-marijuana patients, marking the first time any sort of legalized cannabis business has been allowed in the city.

The first public workshop in the city’s cannabis policy review will be held on Wednesday, March 28, in Andrews Hall at the Sonoma Community Center, starting at 6:30 p.m. Another is scheduled to follow two weeks later, on April 11. Both are part of the evaluation process undertaken with the municipal consulting firm Muni Services last August. Recommendations are expected to come out of the process in the fall for city council action.

The March 28 meeting will focus on background information, state regulations, overview of dispensaries, testing and manufacturing facilities, and options/issues for municipal regulation, according to the city’s press release. There will be “an exercise for attendees to give specific feedback” and a public comment period.

The April 11 meeting will have a slightly different agenda, including answering questions raised at the prior Town Hall, as well as distance requirements and other regulatory options for specific cannabis businesses, plus potential taxing, fee and other administrative issues.

In the meantime, the city is moving toward codifying the existing limits on cultivation called for in its moratorium. Two pages of amendments to Title 19 of the municipal code were previewed and approved by the Planning Commission earlier this month, though they did add their preference that only one building per property lot could be used for cultivation.

In this revised ordinance, personal cultivation would be limited to a maximum of six plants, regardless of how many people live in the residence. The house itself must remain a residence, with “legal and functioning cooking, sleeping and sanitation facilities….”

The amendments also attend to such basics as defining cannabis (“all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa Linnaeus, Cannabis indica, or Cannabis ruderalis, whether growing or not; and the seeds and resin thereof…”) and the enclosed and secure structures where cannabis cultivation is allowed.

Regulations for grow-light wattage, ventilation systems, electronic security systems and fire extinguishers are included.

This most recent development in the city’s analysis of legalized cannabis is expected to come before the City Council at its April 16 meeting for first reading, and can be voted on as soon as the following meeting, April 30. If approved it would take effect 30 days after the vote.

Even though the delivery of medical cannabis to patients inside the city limits is now legal, so far it hasn’t made much of a difference in the local cannabis delivery business. “I had no idea (delivery was allowed in Sonoma),” said Darlene DuCharme of Sunshine Vitality, a Valley-based cannabis delivery service. “I guess I didn’t read that far.” The delivery permission is listed on page 9 of the 12-page moratorium document; DuCharme said she focuses her delivery business for Napa customers.

But DuCharme also said the city’s requirements that delivery businesses be already licensed in another jurisdiction, obtain a license from the city, and pay a business license tax, were unworkable. “You won’t find any licensed distributors in a hundred miles,” she said.

“To date, no business license applications have been filed,” said Sonoma Planning Director David Goodison.

More info at www.sonomacity.org.

Email Christian at christian.kallen@sonomanews.com.

CANNABIS TOWN HALL

The first public town hall in the City of Sonoma’s cannabis policy review will be held on Wednesday, March 28, at the Sonoma Community Center’s Andrews Hall, starting at 6:30 p.m.

A second workshop is scheduled for the same location on Wednesday, April 11.

The first Town Hall will focus on state regulations, overview of dispensaries, testing and manufacturing facilities, and options/issues for municipal regulation.

There will be a question/answer portion, an exercise for attendees to give specific feedback, and a public comment period.

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