On Tuesday November 7, Santa Clara’s City Attorney and City Manager were finally able to convince a skeptical City Council to approve a ban on commercial cannabis businesses, effective through the end of 2018. The ban passed 5-2, with Vice Mayor Dominic Caserta and City Council member Patricia Mahan dissenting.
Staff say they need the time to work with a consultant to formulate an appropriate set of cannabis regulations for the city, and are only banning cannabis industry in the interim. The City Council had directed staff to hire a consultant back on August 22.
“This ordinance is both a moratorium on those things we can have a moratorium on, and regulation of those things we cannot prohibit,” said City Attorney Brian Doyle. “If we do not pass this moratorium, then there’ll be a certain element of the Wild West here.”
“This is a tight market right now, and there’s a lot of work being done in this industry,” responded City Manager Deanna Santana to City Council inquiries as to why an ordinance couldn’t be ready by June 2018. The council had previously hoped that an ordinance could be put in place by April 2018.
“My understanding from our study session was that there was unanimous enthusiasm for this fledgling industry that had a large margin of approval in the Mission City,” said Caserta. “I’m very concerned that we’re losing out on a huge economic opportunity.”
“This was not what I expected either,” protested Mahan, who reminded her colleagues that they had instructed staff to ban commercial cultivation of cannabis but tax and regulate cannabis dispensaries. “I certainly want to move forward with getting retail sales.”
“I don’t want to play catch-up, I want to be a leader in this,” said Mahan. “I don’t think a ban for a year gets us anywhere.”
“We want to make sure that if we do this, we do it the right way, and the way that fits our community, and not just jump in blindly,” cautioned Mayor Lisa Gillmor, backing the staff’s proposal for a one-year ban while studies are ongoing.
“The amount of money that other states have made [from cannabis taxes] is phenomenal,” said resident Deborah Bress, critical of the one-year ban. “For a city that likes to say it’s the Center of What’s Possible, you’re more like the Keystone Cops on this. It’s almost comical.”
City staff reported they had issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a cannabis consultant at the end of October, and intend to hire one by early January 2018 and receive initial results in time for city budget decision-making in the late Spring.