Sausalito board votes to put retail cannabis to the polls
Sausalito voters will decide whether retail cannabis businesses will be allowed to operate in the city.
In a 3-to-2 vote, city council approved the entry of a resident-led initiative in the November 2022 poll. The vote came amid some public concerns about youth health and safety. legality of language in the initiative favoring some cannabis business owners over others.
The initiative would have terms that would allow a single retail storefront and a single delivery business to operate, said Mary Wagner, the city’s lawyer. It would also require business owners to live in the city and pay the city 7.5% of the net profits.
In addition, businesses should be located in certain commercial, industrial, riverside or mixed-use areas; be more than 1000 feet from any school; and operate no earlier than 7 a.m. and no later than 9 p.m.
The initiative is sponsored by resident Karen Cleary, one of the owners of Otter Brands, a cannabis company vying to open a physical storefront in the city, according to a report from city staff. The petition collected about 653 valid signatures, more than the 601 required by the county election code, Wagner said.
Because it had enough signatures, the board had to decide whether to put it on the ballot, pass an outright ordinance, or put it on the ballot while asking staff to create a report detailing the initiative and how it could affect the city, the vice-mayor said. Janelle Kellman.
Kellman and Mayor Jill Hoffman voted at the July 27 meeting against putting it on the ballot without further information.
“I think we need to at least commission the report to at least understand more fully the impacts on Sausalito and articulate that if we’re not going to pass it as an ordinance, that’s why and we’re sending it back to a people’s vote. Hoffman said.
The other three council members said they preferred to leave it to the voters and not burden the staff with extra work.
“This is not what I do not want to be briefed on on the matter,” Council member Melissa Blaustein said. “This is where we have a variety of very pressing issues on our agenda. We are in a climate emergency. We must prepare for disasters. We have a fire season.
“This is something that we have been talking about for three years and that we are trying to have an open public process,” she said. “Someone introduced it to the voters. They qualified for the ballot. Now we can let democracy do the talking and let the voters decide.
Kellman, however, said the discussion was not on whether cannabis should be permitted, but on “a particular set of languages submitted on the basis of signatures.”
“This is not a larger conversation around the support or lack of support of this council anywhere for cannabis,” she said.
Public comments were mixed on the issue. Some residents said they were in favor of cannabis licenses, some said they shouldn’t be allowed because of concerns over youth access and rising crime, and some questioned the legality of the initiative.
Former city councilor Joan Cox said the last city council and most residents had already opened their arms to the sale of cannabis.
“They said yes to cannabis. They didn’t say yes to Otter Brand as the sole supplier of cannabis, ”Cox said. “They haven’t said yes to a cannabis company usurping all of the city’s power to govern, regulate and protect its businesses and residents.”
Berkeley resident Eva Chrysanthe said the initiative did not favor black business owners or entrepreneurs who live outside Sausalito.
“I agree that the process should be more democratic,” Chrysanthe said. “And I am very concerned about the lack of representation of minorities in this company.”
Conor Johnston, chief executive of Otter Brands, said comments about the lack of diversity are unfair because he identifies as a gay Mexican man who is the co-owner of the first stock-based cannabis store in San Francisco. He argued that those who oppose the measure are anti-cannabis and prohibitionists.
“For a long time, cannabis was illegal because it empowered Mexicans and because it encouraged white women and black men to sleep together,” he said. “And I’m not making this up.”
He argued that cannabis has also been a means of criminalizing anti-war activists, that it has been touted as a gateway drug, and that dispensaries have stepped up use among adolescents.
“Again, study after study refutes this,” he said.
Aurash Soroosh, a researcher from the Institute of Public Health who spoke at the meeting, raised questions about the legality of a for-profit company presenting voters with an initiative that narrows the pool of potential candidates.
“The state constitution prohibits initiative action aimed at conferring a benefit on an identified person or entity,” Soroosh said. “Second, the US Constitution’s trade clause and related principles of state law require strong rationale for residency requirements to participate in government programs. In this context, nothing justifies reserving economic opportunities for locals.
Johnston denied that the measure is a sole source contract because he has no involvement in the delivery business.
“So the idea that Otter Brands is the only one getting a license here, if we get one, isn’t true, right out of the gates,” he said.