Tulare poised to allow recreational pot sales

In a 3-2 vote, the Tulare City Council approved the final wording for its recreational cannabis sales ordinance.

The final draft–approved April 7 as a “pass-to-print” measure that will still require a final OK at the next council meeting–will allow up to five recreational cannabis sales points in the city and cap the city’s portion of the revenue at 2% of total sales.

The item should receive council approval at the April 21 meeting.


Hammering Out Details

Before the council agreed in a split vote to move forward, the members debated a handful of the ordinance’s finer details, including the total number of dispensaries, a limit on the city’s take of sales revenue, the sale of CBD products and how to deal with the city’s two existing medicinal cannabis dispensaries.

Currently, Tulare is home to a pair of medicinal cannabis dispensaries, both of which have signaled they intend to apply for state licensing allowing them to sell cannabis for recreational use. However, the Tulare’s proposed cannabis regulation does not automatically grant them licenses to sell recreational cannabis.

“There’s nothing in the ordinance that would specifically grant them the licenses. Now, whether you agree with that or not, that’s not something I would particularly put in the ordinance,” said City Attorney Mario Zamora. “I think language like that would be really unusual.”

A previous version of the ordinance referenced the two medical dispensaries, granting them recreational licenses. That language has since been removed, allowing the council ultimate say about who receives permission to operate.

“Council can give direction on how it (a recreational cannabis sales license) will be issued, whether it will be the two existing will just have to fill out the paperwork and it won’t be a competitive process, and there will be one left for a competitive bid process,” Zamora said.


Five Dispensaries Total

Zamora’s comment about a single license left for competitive bidding was made prior to the council–again in a 3-2 split vote–deciding to allow a total of five dispensaries in the city. The previous wording had limited the city to three dispensaries, including the two medicinal dispensaries already in operation.

Councilman Carlton Jones provided his rationale for the decision, saying the city should avoid language limiting their future options.

“The reason it would be, if for some reason the medical dispensaries don’t get a license from the state, I don’t want it to be locked in that we’re going to add one more,” Jones said.

Voting against raising the limit were council members Greg Nunley and Dennis Mederos.

“If there’s a demand out there and if the council finds it necessary to up those numbers, we can always amend the ordinance,” Mederos said. “We can get to five in the future, if demand and the business community finds that it is necessary. I don’t see any reason for us to go to five now.”


Making Tulare Cannabis-Friendly

Jones, however, expressed concern that not increasing the limit could limit the desire to open a dispensary in Tulare.

“If we have five and then we’re going to review every July, that would allow someone interested in the business to make that investment knowing we already have that in place, versus not having it in place and they’re waiting to see if we approve it,” Jones said.

Jones, who represents the deciding vote after Nunley and Mederos pledged to vote against the ordinance in any form, also demanded the city include a limit of 2% on the city’s cannabis sales tax. Previous wording would have allowed incoming businesses to negotiate their contribution, and any decision may have affected the rate established cannabis businesses pay.

“If we set the maximum at 2%, not only does it protect the existing businesses from any new businesses coming in and negotiating, but it makes us a lot more competitive to the businesses that surround us and we become the attraction in the Central Valley,” Jones said.


Limiting CBD Sales

Jones’ final demand was a prohibition on the sale of products containing CBD at unlicensed locations, a concern raised by Tulare’s educators.

“One of the other things I wanted to see in this ordinance was something that would really address the concerns from our local high schools, something that would really address the concerns for a lot of the parents here in the community, is that we 100% take all CBD sales away from smoke shops,” Jones said. “The only CBD and cannabis sales would be from the businesses we licensed, the businesses that we know are regulated and the businesses we know are definitely invested in this venture.”

While the ordinance already contains that restriction on sales, Jones said he wanted to be able to ensure enforcement.

“Our local kids aren’t going to be able to get into these dispensaries. I watched their operation. I checked it out and it’s very strict,” he said. “But, kids go into smoke shops all the time, and a lot of them come out with stuff they shouldn’t have. This protects that, because if any smoke shop has any CBD product or cannabis product, we can bust them.”

Because Jones represented the deciding vote on Tulare’s cannabis ordinance changes, he stated that if he disagreed with the council’s direction, he would vote against them. This raised the ire of Councilwoman Terry Sayre.

“I don’t want to be held hostage to one city council member telling me if we don’t do what he wants to do, we’re not going to have the support for our businesses in our city,” she said. “I think that’s just a little bit outrageous.”

The council will vote on final approval of recreational cannabis sales at its next meeting, April 21.

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