City Attorney ‘Impartial’ Analysis

City of Sonoma Attorney – Impartial Analysis

BY CITY ATTORNEY Jeffery A. Walter:

“If approved by a majority of the voters, Measure Y would allow – without having to get permits from the City — the establishment and operation of commercial cannabis businesses, including commercial manufacturing, distribution, cultivation, transportation, testing, retail sales, and delivery of cannabis in all commercial zoning districts in the City. No limitations are set on the number of such businesses that can open in the City. Multiple, unspecified numbers of cannabis businesses can locate on the same parcel. Unless prohibited by the City’s anti-smoking ordinance, consumption of cannabis at retail businesses is permitted. No provision is made for the City or the community to examine and mitigate, in advance of their opening, such businesses’ impacts on the community and the environment.

Other than for temporary special events where cannabis may be sold and consumed, Measure Y does not require submittal of a permit application or create a procedure for the City to accept, review and act on permit applications through a public process, but instead provides that with limited exceptions, the only City approval that is required to open a cannabis business is a “zoning clearance.” A “zoning clearance” is not a permit; it is a statement issued by the Planning Director that a proposed business is located within the correct zoning district and complies with the district’s requirements, such as the building height limit. A “zoning clearance” is issued over the counter and without notice or hearing.

Under Measure Y, operators who were engaged in medicinal cannabis businesses before September 9, 2016, would be entitled to continue or re-commence those operations provided they state that they were operating such businesses in compliance with the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 and pay the City a fee. The City would be required to issue such an operator a certificate of compliance and allow that business to operate even if the business had violated City laws.

Only those cannabis retailers whose businesses are located in the City would be authorized to deliver cannabis to their City customers; except deliveries from out-of-city businesses would be allowed upon the payment of an enhanced fee.

The measure would permit indoor personal medical cannabis cultivation in all residential districts: unclear whether personal cultivation of adult use cannabis is permitted. Outdoor personal cultivation is not permitted. Personal cultivation cannot exceed six cannabis plants “per adult”, but Measure Y does not limit the number of “adults” who are permitted to so cultivate. Thus, the number of cannabis plants allowed to be cultivated per residence cannot be determined. Additionally, Measure Y permits the indoor cultivation of up to 30 cannabis plants on any residential property by caregivers for their patients.

Cannabis businesses must be at least 600′ from schools and City parks, 1000′ from the Plaza, and 250′ from the City library. No buffer is required between a cannabis business and daycare centers or youth facilities.

Measure Y was placed on the ballot by a petition signed by the requisite number of voters.”

Jeffrey A. Walter**

City Attorney

OPINION: **For the record – City Attorney Walter has been a consistent opposer of Legal Cannabis activity in the City of Sonoma and several other Cities in Northern California that he has represented and having publicly stated that Measure Y may be a target of his wrath should it be approved by Citizen Voters.

OPINION – Our unofficial Rebuttal to the City Attorney “Impartial” Analysis:

This “Impartial” Analysis by the City Attorney is anything but impartial.  It deliberately attempts to spin the narrative to discredit what Measure Y will actually accomplish for the citizens of Sonoma, which is:  Encourage Competition, Provide Choices, Discourage Monopoly, Provide an Economic Engine and Support Free Enterprise.  Jeff A. Walter is not a friend of cannabis, neither medicinal or recreational.  Speculation around town has been that he is possibly, and even likely, to be a friend of powerful “Opposition” Lobbyists given the extreme measures he has taken to thwart legal cannabis in a handful of municipalities that he has represented.

When he says that Measure Y allows for Cannabis Businesses in all commercial zoning districts in the City”, that is either a flat out lie or he has not read Measure Y, which is unlikely for a City Attorney.  After the setbacks from schools, the library and parks there is only five viable properties remaining for the purposes defined in Measure Y, as analyzed and reported to the City by an expensive consultant hired by the City itself.  So, for $35,000 the City pays for and receives a consultant’s report on Measure Y that the City Attorney contradicts.

Furthermore, he states:

  • “No limitations are set on the number of such businesses that can open in the City.” Not true.  The number of available/viable properties, competition, economic and free enterprise “saturation” challenges will severely limit the number of such businesses.
  • “…the only City approval that is required to open a cannabis business is a “zoning clearance.” That is currently true also for Banks, Grocery Stores (that can sell liquor and alcohol), Offices, Auto Parts and Retail Stores, etc. in any commercially zoned location.  Isn’t a Cannabis Dispensary a Retail Store?
  • “A “zoning clearance” is not a permit; it is a statement issued by the Planning Director…” That is correct.  The same “zoning clearance” is currently true for Banks, Grocery Stores (that can sell liquor and alcohol), Offices, Auto Parts and Retail Stores, etc. with no Use Permit required.
  • “…operators who were engaged in medicinal cannabis businesses before September 9, 2016, would be entitled to continue or re-commence those operations provided they state that they were operating such businesses in compliance with the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 and pay the City a fee…” True, but it’s merely a continuation of what the voter-approved Prop. 64 already mandated in 2016, after which the City of Sonoma chose to dither away four years of non-action on Legal Cannabis access for its citizens.  It’s a scare tactic of Walter’s own making.
  • “Only those cannabis retailers whose businesses are located in the City would be authorized to deliver cannabis to their City customers; except deliveries from out-of-city businesses would be allowed upon the payment of an enhanced fee.” No kidding, that’s exactly what the current law in the City of Sonoma is:  Allowing delivery services originating from outside-the-city, only, after they pay an enhanced fee yet they pay no sales tax to the City!
  • “The measure would permit indoor personal medical cannabis cultivation in all residential districts: unclear whether personal cultivation of adult use cannabis is permitted. Outdoor personal cultivation is not permitted.” Wow, that’s a mega-spin.  Indoor residential personal cultivation is definitely permitted; outdoor cultivation is not even addressed at all in Measure Y!  Meaning that permissive outdoor cultivation is entirely up to the City.
  • “Additionally, Measure Y permits the indoor cultivation of up to 30 cannabis plants on any residential property by caregivers for their patients.” No kidding, again.  Legitimate caregivers, under Measure Y, can grow indoor cannabis for their medical patients that cannot grow it for themselves.  Apparently, Walter would prefer that immobile medical patients be deprived of home-grown medicinal cannabis.
  • “Cannabis businesses must be at least 600′ from schools and City parks, 1000′ from the Plaza, and 250′ from the City library.” All true. All the set-back concerns expressed by citizens two to four years ago at countless City Council meetings, are now addressed in Measure Y.  What would Walter prefer, less distancing?
  • “No buffer is required between a cannabis business and daycare centers or youth facilities.” True, although this is a bit of a conundrum. Daycare centers are not threatened by the proximity of cannabis businesses.  That’s our opinion.  Cannabis businesses are very secure and have zero interest in letting children have access to their facilities, noting that pharmacies, liquor stores and gas stations (with their own levels of which actually do allow children) are accepted and thriving in Sonoma.  Presumably, if the City were in the mood to thwart a potential cannabis business that is qualified under Measure Y, a daycare center could easily pop-up nearby and become a preventive measure, overnight.

Jon Early, Proponent