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Colusa Planning Commission approves cannabis packaging business

The Colusa Planning Commission is asking for “more teeth” in the city’s development agreements with cannabis companies.

Commissioners approved an agreement on Nov. 10 to allow a pot packaging company to operate in Colusa’s downtown, but said they would recommend that before the City Council signs off on it – and any other cannabis-related business – they consider annual review opportunities to make sure marijuana companies are living up to the promises they make to the community.

Colusa has embraced the manufacturing and distribution of legal weed as a source of general fund revenue since voters in 2016 passed Proposition 64, which allows adults 21 and older to use marijuana for recreational purposes.

The city has made just over $400,000 from its developer agreements by collecting 3 percent of the companies’ gross sales, officials said, but what the citizens of Colusa got in return were “bait and switch” structures the Planning Commission did not sign off on and unkept promises to control odors.

“Nobody yet has been successful,” said Planning Commission Chairman, Brendan Farrell, particularly on the lingering odor in the downtown from growers and processors of the pungent plant.

The Planning Commission will recommend the City Council approve New Wave’s application to operate a marijuana packaging facility at 208 and 210 Sixth Street, despite opposition from the public about it occupying storefront property in Colusa’s central historical district. The property was previously used by Big Moon Sky, a marijuana processing company that was similarly opposed for the same reason.

New Wave plans to take take in and repackage raw marijuana in the historic Sun Herald Building, next door to the Will S. Green House, a designated landmark and private residence, and across the street from the historic Colusa County Courthouse.

Like Big Moon Sky, New Wave will operate discreetly without signage, giving the outward appearance of being empty.

“It is hard to believe the Planning Commission would allow a cannabis distributor to locate in the middle of the historic heart of Colusa,” said Jeneane Wilsey, in a letter representative of many others in strong opposition to the proposed use of the historic building. “There certainly must be another use of this facility that would be a better fit with this area of Colusa.”

Both the future packaging site and the Bud Bros. non-storefront online retail distribution business located on Main Street are owned by Zapata Brothers Inc, of Yuba City.

Although Colusa County officials tried to negotiate with Colusa during the Colusa Industrial Project annexation tax share agreement to forbid marijuana businesses in the historic downtown, Colusa officials have remained committed to the cannabis industry, as long as the processors and distributors get a handle on the odors.

“We can’t have odors at that location,” said Commissioner Richard Selover, who initially wanted a “zero tolerance” agreement that could shut the company down permanently if the city received legitimate and verified odor complaints.

The Planning Commission voted 4-0 to approve the developer agreement with New Wave and recommend the project to the Colusa City Council, which has final authority. Commissioner Dick Armocido was absent.

Although Colusa officials support online retail sales and the direct delivery of marijuana, from which the city profits, city officials have not yet embraced walk-in retail stores for residents to purchase cannabis and cannabis products in the same way they purchase cigarettes and liquor.

That may change.

Williams Zapata, of Bud Bros., said the local cannabis growers and distributors are forming a coalition to try and persuade city officials to allow storefront retail distribution of marijuana, which would provide the city far greater revenue from sales taxes than what the city currently makes off of developer agreements.

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