SV Cannabis Group responds to Sun pot editorial

Posted on May 28, 2019 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Gil Latimer, of the Sonoma Valley Cannabis Group, responds to The Sun editorial ‘Haven’t you heard? The war on pot is over. “

It’s important to understand that any process for a comprehensive cannabis ordinance is fairly detailed and time-consuming. Though the editorial takes a rather skeptical route, it still arrives at a worthy destination.

Time is relative and opening a dispensary won’t happen overnight. The City Council has a reasonable timeline based on recommendations from the consultant: ordinances by the end of June; July set aside for Design Application Process and Cost Recovery Fees; August – September, Application Reviews, Backgrounds and Applicant Interviews; November – December, Award Issuance of Regulatory Permit Pending CUP approval or Operational Agreement; October –April, 2020, Develop tax measure for November 2020 Election.

The editorial state: “Jon Early’s ballot initiative to allow cannabis dispensaries in town will be on the ballot next year, no matter what the city does between then and now. And at the moment, that Early initiative, warts and all, stands a good chance of passing.”

Let the City control its own destiny. By state law, Mr. Early can withdraw his ballot measure up to 88 days before an election. This would be advisable.

“ the city is hurriedly working on the language of an ordinance …, but the draft of that ordinance was strongly and unanimously criticized by Sonoma’s seven-member Planning Commission at its most recent meeting.”

This seems to imply an impasse between the City Council and Planning Commission, but the City Council has proven to be quite progressive and is likely to agree with most of the Commission’s recommendations.

“Developed by a consulting firm…, the content of the 44-page draft ordinance is all but guaranteed to insure no dispensary will ever be established in Sonoma.”

Perhaps if the draft ordinance was accepted in toto, without changes, it would be too onerous for anyone who may have contemplated opening a dispensary in the city. But again, we know the City Council has an interest in creating an environment that would attract such business.

“Overall, the commission recommended at least 15 major changes that deleted over a third of its 44 pages.”

Yes, that’s a good thing. The Planning Commission was actually pretty progressive in its recommendations to strike many of the draft ordinances’ excesses.

“The bigger problem, however, is the way the language of the proposed ordinance treats dispensary owners and customers as ‘pseudo-criminals.’”

We know there are still negative attitudes around cannabis, and that cannabis ordinances in general reflect them in a number of ways, including all the extra security, signage and zoning issues and other regulations. Unfortunately, this is what comes with the territory in 2019. But, if Sonoma’s ordinances largely mirror progressive ordinances in other California jurisdictions, we should be able to live with that for now.

“Since Sonoma has never had a cannabis dispensary before, a go-slow approach is fine, and we support it.”

We feel this is a reflection of the old reefer madness propaganda that plays on unfounded fears. We have heard no good argument for the “go slow” approach that is not based on old paradigms. In addition, the process from application to permit is so time-consuming that openings will probably occur at a staggered rate.

We do, however, agree whole-heartedly with the editorial’s final paragraph. A good ordinance will do its part to combat the black market and bring in new revenue. “We strongly urge Sonoma’s City Council to accept the recommendations of the Planning Commission and to make the changes the Commission suggested; or simply review and modify a successful ordinance from another small city and completely toss this currently bloated and inappropriate draft ordinance.”

— Gil Latimer,

5 thoughts on “SV Cannabis Group responds to Sun pot editorial

  1. “Developed by a consulting firm…, the content of the 44-page draft ordinance is all but guaranteed to insure no dispensary will ever be established in Sonoma.”

    WOW: What the heck? Complete with a live streaming of peoples faces from the dispensary to the City Manager’s office? Really?

    Guess that’s what you get for 25K when the City Manager doesn’t agree with the City Council’s policy direction (and the Council is too slow and/or naive to catch on to the City Manager’s usual stall tactics, IMHO!).

    For the record: The City Manager is suppose to follow the “current” City Council’s policy direction, not fight it….or stall until the next Council elections in November of 2020!

    Just saying!

    1. Kimosabe, thanks very much for your comment, we always appreciate support from the community!

      I will go out on a limb to suggest that the majority of the City Council will be averse to including a number of specific regulations presented by the consultant, including live streaming of dispensary customers.

      However, we would like to clarify something regarding the link supplied to sonoma-access, above. On the whole, the Sonoma Valley Cannabis Group does not support that 2020 ballot initiative. We believe the city of Sonoma should be able to control its own destiny in forming progressive, compassionate cannabis policy. We believe the city is on the right track.

      Mr. Early’s 2020 initiative is a poorly written, overly broad ordinance, parts of which may not be legal, according to the city attorney. There would be no merit-based selection process or even a requirement for a use permit.

      The City Council hopes that if we have one or two dispensaries already in place through a reasonable process, that initiative could be withdrawn before the 2020 election. This seems like the smart way to go.

      Gil Latimer
      Sonoma Valley Cannabis Group

  2. Hello Gil, It’s always a pleasure hearing from you indirectly.

    Referring to my ability to withdraw the initiative from the November 2020 election as the proponent of the voter qualified cannabis initiative Sonoma Citizens for Local Access (SCLA), you may be correct but I wonder what you meant by “This would be advisable.” I invite you to elaborate.

    Unless your goal is to further voter suppression, you might consider embracing the ballot box on behalf of our Citizens as our ultimate form of democracy, empowering the people over the people in power.

    While doing so, keep in mind that the SCLA is now a qualified voter initiative for voters to decide upon, not me. Furthermore, I consider the fate of the SCLA initiative to be out of my hands without a compelling reason to withdraw it. For the record, I have recently tried to engage in a cooperative dialogue on this conundrum with City Council leadership to but was soundly rebuffed. The ball is in their court but they may have inadvertently painted themselves into a corner when they suppressed the SCLA last summer and kicked the can down the road.

    Also keep in mind that the City Fathers (Management + Council) were either elected by the voters or hired by the those elected to act on behalf of the voters; It is a representative government, not a Monarchy, that is intended to streamline and implement the wishes of the Citizens of Sonoma. In this case, the Citizens of Sonoma already voted 2:1 in favor of legalization and local cannabis access in 2016 but those wishes have been ignored with no indication at all that a functional set of regulations will come forth from the City Council in spite of their promise to do so.

    As a result of these observations, it is unlikely that I will be involved in any City Council initiated “beauty contest”, as they choose to call their applicant selection process, and I will certainly be curious as to who might be.


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