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Supervisors outline process, timeline for cannabis businesses


The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors outlined some of their ideas for regulating commercial cannabis operations during their meeting in Martinez on Tuesday afternoon.

During public comment, advocates and community members urged the board to help county residents achieve easier access to cannabis by helping to increase the number of dispensaries and reducing the distance traveled to reach one.

No action was taken, but supervisors addressed a number of questions from the public in a discussion with county staff about how to proceed in permitting retail store fronts, growing operations and
manufacturing operations under the county’s cannabis ordinance.

Specific areas of inquiry focused on setting up a request for proposals process for cultivation sites and dispensaries as well as how the county might “fast track” the process of allowing new dispensaries to open.

Staff said that at this stage, they’re planning a two-step RFP process starting sometime in January.
Applicants would begin with a letter of intent, which would help staff determine whether a given location meets zoning requirements. That letter of intent can also be helpful for applicants seeking licensing with the state, as they will be able to go through both permitting processes simultaneously and potentially get their business operations going sooner.

“The state won’t even talk to them unless there’s some documentation from the county that the county’s working with them,” said John Kopchik, director of the county Department of Conservation and Development. He added, however, that this information was based on his conversations with potential applicants and had not yet been confirmed with the state.

If the letter of intent “passes muster,” the county will invite them to submit a full proposal in February. They’d be scored on factors such as plans for business, security and operations, including odor control. The county would also evaluate the proposed location and any benefits of allowing a cannabis operation there.

A full list of qualifications is available on the county’s website at https://bit.ly/2OHcdqF.

A committee of personnel from multiple departments would be responsible for reviewing proposals, and would include firefighters as well as county health and agriculture staff. Law enforcement officials were invited to participate but declined.

For applicants whose proposals are not approved, the county ordinance does not currently provide an appeals process. “I don’t know who they’d appeal to after us,” Supervisor Karen Mitchoff said.

The cannabis ordinance went into effect this summer, but will not be operational until the results of the Nov. 6 election are certified with regard to Measure R, which appears to have passed with more than 70 percent support from the voters.

Measure R proposed a 4 percent tax on gross receipts at cannabis businesses in unincorporated parts of the county and $7 per square foot of garden canopy for growing operations. It needed majority approval to pass.

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