Colusa residents can feel good, bad, or indifferent about the city embracing the marijuana industry but the potent little plant is here to stay.
The Colusa City Council is expected to update the city’s 2017 cannabis ordinance at their May meeting, at which time they could consider allowing pot retailers to open storefronts within the city limits.
Colusa City Manager Jesse Cain said the city’s ordinance is long overdue for an overhaul because changes in state cannabis laws have gone into effect since California voters first legalized the recreational use of marijuana in 2016.
“It’s time we actually revisit Ordinance 519 and bring it up to the new state regulations,” Cain said.
California law allows those 21 years of age or older (with a state-issued ID or driver’s license) to purchase, possess, and consume up to 28.5 grams (one ounce) of marijuana or to grow or possess up to six plants of their own.
Among California’s new laws is the authorization for the state or a local government to share certain financial information, upon the express consent of a cannabis licensee. AB 1525 is supposed to help financial institutions better comply with federal reporting requirements.
Another bill aids local agencies in enforcing against illicit cannabis activities by making clear that cannabis testing laboratories may receive and test samples from any local or state law enforcement agency or regulatory body.
Another 2021 law are the Prop 65 warning requirements for marijuana products. Cannabis distributors must now provide warning labels on smokable products that marijuana smoke is a carcinogen. And since THC is now listed as a cause of developmental toxicity, both smokable and certain non-smokable cannabis products (e.g., edibles, vape cartridges, and even CBD products with trace amounts of THC) will also require Prop 65 warning labels.
There are a number of other laws that may or may not impact Colusa developers but the city’s current ordinance does not reflect the recent tax-share agreement with the County of Colusa from the annexation of Colusa Industrial Properties (where new cannabis operations are likely to be developed) into the Colusa city limits.
Cain said the City Council will have a number of changes to consider, including a potential change to the city’s current developer agreements, which are based on a facility’s gross receipts.
Cain said he has researched a number of cities and counties that have different avenues for the jurisdictions to earn revenue from cannabis companies, including fees based on gross revenue, the square footage of the facilities, or a combination of both.
City Attorney Ryan Jones asked the City Council not to discuss their particular views on potential changes at last week’s meeting. The meeting was only to give him direction to update the ordinance with potential changes for the City Council to discuss at the May meeting. There will be at least two more forums for the public to participate in the discussion before a new ordinance becomes a city law, Jones said.
Cain said his goal is for the City Council to have a few different options to consider, including whether to change the distance of separation between a cannabis facility and a school from 1,200 feet to 600 feet, which would then match the state law.
“If we are going to address this (ordinance), we need to address everything,” he said.
The City Council could also address how long developers have to put their facilities in operation after the agreements are signed.
“We have DAs that we have signed that just sat there for years and years and nothing’s happening,” said City Councilman Greg Ponciano. “It’s a bad look and gives the appearance that the City of Colusa has a dozen cannabis operations, and in reality, that’s not the fact.”
At last week’s meeting, Aurora Ramirez, of Soothing Hands Massage Therapy, spoke in favor of changing Colusa’s ordinance to allow for cannabis retail stores. “I think a storefront would be very ideal for Colusa,” said Ramirez, who believes cannabis is beneficial as a medicine. “We already do delivery service, so how can we have a delivery dispensary but a storefront is not allowed?
Ramirez said private delivery service could be riskier because it doesn’t have the police oversight that a storefront would have. She also said people would not have to travel out of the community as they do now to purchase cannabis directly from a retail store.
“This is a great opportunity for our town,” she said.
Colusa resident Janice Bell said she is against having cannabis storefronts.
“I work at the jail,” she said. “Marijuana is a problem.”
Bell said while people have differing opinions about the recreational use of marijuana, most agree the smell of Cannabis has a negative effect on a person’s way of life.
“I’m offended by the smells and I know the police department can only do so much about the smells emanating from the current marijuana businesses,” Bell said. “They affect my lifestyle. I have to close my windows. How do I explain to my grandchildren what that smell is without being embarrassed? How do I educate them about the dangers of drugs and say, ‘but that one is OK?”
Kodi Pine, owner of Sticky Trees, a local cannabis delivery service said the city’s 2016 ordinance reflected the City Council’s views of the industry at that time, but that state regulations and viewpoints have evolved since then and new reiterations of the ordinance were needed.
Colusa Police Chief Josh Fitch said he has mixed feelings about cannabis, but said voters in 2016 favored legalizing marijuana largely because Proposition 64, as written, granted local control to jurisdictions.
The proposition allows local governments to ban marijuana businesses completely or to impose caps on the number of licenses, although certain state grants can now be withheld from cities that ban cannabis retail establishments.
The City Council in 2017 embraced cannabis manufacturing but drew the line on open retail sales. Since then, Colusa voters have sent three new members to the dais, who may have differing opinions.