Steve Young: Benicia City Council to consider re-writing cannabis rules on May 7

[Editor: Attend City Council on May 7 if at all possible.  This is an issue of fairness and could affect Benicia’s economic viability and reputation.  If you can’t attend, check out How to write to Council and staff.  – R.S.]

By Steve Young, Benicia City Council member
Steve Young, Benicia City Council

On May 7, the City Council will consider a proposal by Councilman Largaespada to expand the buffer zones around cannabis dispensaries. The proposed changes would, if adopted, add buffer zones around any day care center (or places where kids congregate), park, or any residential zone.  If adopted by the Council, the practical effect would be to eliminate virtually all retail locations in the City.

Cannabis issues have been on the ballot twice recently. In 2016, Benicians voted 63% in favor of Prop. 64 which legalized personal use of cannabis by adults. In 2018, Benicians voted 68% in favor of letting the Council impose excise taxes on cannabis businesses (which we did last December). The current rules, adopted by the previous Council after more than 18 hearings and dozens of hours of testimony, limited cannabis dispensaries to just a few commercial areas in the City. The Council eliminated First Street and all of downtown, as well as all of the Southhampton shopping center. We also limited the number of dispensaries to just two.

When we finally opened up the application process last fall, we had 9 applicants for these two possible permits. Applicants were required to pay the City $20,000 each for processing their application, including for a Public Safety License to be issued by the Police Department after significant vetting of the applicants. In addition, the applicants were required to show some form of site control. This required them to rent or lease, or obtain an option to lease,  commercial space at significant costs while waiting for the City to finally recommend which applicants were recommended to move forward to the Planning Commission to apply for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP). (Some applicants have reported absorbing over $100,000 in costs each.)

In my opinion, regardless of how you feel about cannabis, it is fundamentally unfair to treat these businesses in this manner.  They have followed all the rules set forth by the City in August,  paid substantial fees to the City and even more to rent vacant space, and have waited over 9 months for the City to act on their applications.  It is simply not fair or equitable, at this late date,  to have the City change the rules in the middle of the game.

If you are interested in this topic, please attend the Council meeting on May 7 or let the Council know about your opinions.


    California’s conservative Democrat legislators not protecting air quality

    Repost from CALmatters

    When oil industry supports legislators, air quality suffers

    By By Kathryn Phillips, April 22, 2019

    When oil industry supports legislators, air quality suffers

    California journalists have reported over the last two election cycles on the effort by the Legislature’s “moderate caucus,” composed of conservative Democratic state legislators, to increase the caucus’ influence

    The caucus’ power, according to those reports, is rooted deeply in the oil industry and its generous campaign donations to the caucus and its members.

    During normal times—say, when the planet’s very future hasn’t depended on dramatically cutting combustion fueled by oil and methane gas—such facts would be just interesting data points for analyzing the Legislature’s political dynamics.

    Now, though, the caucus members’ devotion to maintaining California’s oil dependence is having health-threatening consequences.

    This devotion is especially playing out in the Assembly Transportation Committee. The committee is chaired by Jim Frazier, a Democrat from Discovery Bay, a leader of the moderate caucus.

    California’s notorious air and climate pollution is driven by transportation. The smog and toxic particles that spark maladies ranging from low birthweight to asthma and heart disease are tightly linked to tailpipe emissions.

    Reams of data, scientific papers and regulatory agency reports point to the need to transition California’s cars and trucks to zero-emission vehicles if the state is to ever have clean air or avoid the worst effects of climate change.

    So one would expect to see growing devotion by the Democratic-led California Legislature to do more to help Californians access electric cars and cut pollution from delivery trucks.

    Instead, the California Assembly is the graveyard for legislation designed to help advance zero-emission vehicles.

    Assembly Transportation Committee Chairman Frazier has a commanding, no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners style of governing. He has demonstrated that style by stopping bills to advance clean transportation by refusing to schedule them for a hearing in his committee.

    One of the most recent victims is Assembly Bill 40, which would require the regulatory agency responsible for tailpipe emissions regulations, the California Air Resources Board, to produce and deliver to the legislature a strategy for fully transitioning brand new cars sold in California to zero-emission by 2040.

    That is, the bill by San Francisco Democratic Assemblyman Phil Ting would have asked for a study to be done and sent to the Legislature. It did nothing more. Yet it’s a bill the oil and gas industry and the California Chamber of Commerce strongly oppose. The bill isn’t being scheduled for a hearing.

    There are a few bills in the Senate that advance clean transportation that may pass in that house. But they are sure to face the buzzsaw in the Assembly once they reach Frazier’s committee.

    How can a single legislator stop progress in advancing technology and cutting pollution?

    He can do this by not acting alone. The Assembly Transportation Committee includes at least four other moderate caucus members who won’t buck the chairman, and whose votes, when counted with the handful of Republicans on the committee, can stop any bill.

    In essence, the committee is stacked against zero-emission technology.

    Frazier isn’t the only pro-oil Democrat sitting in a leadership role this year. Rudy Salas, Jr., a Democrat from Bakersfield, is chairman of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee. His first action was to try to get an expansive and expensive audit of the air resources board’s work on transportation.

    It wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Salas’s audit request, which failed to garner the votes needed, echoed the complaints commonly heard from the oil and gas industry about the air resources board’s transportation policies.

    Who pays campaign costs has consequences. In the California Legislature, the consequences are that we all live with more health-threatening transportation pollution with no end in sight.

    Kathryn Phillips is director of Sierra Club California, the legislative and regulatory advocacy arm of the Sierra Club’s 13 local chapters. She wrote this commentary for CALmatters.

      “2020 We are Indivisible” – Grassroots / Candidates’ pledge

      By Roger Straw, April 27, 2019

      Today I signed the Indivisible “2020 We are Indivisible Pledge.” (You can sign here:

      We must defeat Donald Trump. The first step is a primary contest that produces a strong Democratic nominee. The second step is winning the general election. We will not accept anything less. To ensure this outcome, I pledge to: Make the primary constructive. Rally behind the winner. Do the work to beat Trump.

      I was so impressed watching the Ezra Levin interview about this on the Rachel Maddow show the other day (see  As of today, seven Democratic presidential candidates have already taken the pledge (Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, Harris, Inslee, Sanders and Warren).

      Indivisible is also inviting the rest of us – the grassroots – to sign on.  To take the pledge, go to  For more info, see below.

      Roger Straw, The Benicia Independent

      Indivisible press release:  


      April 25, 2019
      Contact: Emily Phelps |

      Washington, DC — The Indivisible Project today unveiled its 2020 “We are Indivisible” pledge that asks Democratic presidential candidates and grassroots Indivisible groups to commit to a constructive primary, backing the eventual Democratic presidential nominee and working to defeat Trump in November.

      “Democrats do not need to choose between creating space for a healthy primary debate and taking back the White House in 2020. Indivisible’s pledge invites candidates and grassroots leaders to join together in rejecting that false choice, and recognizing that those two goals support each other,” Indivisible’s national political director María Urbina said. “As a progressive movement, we are united in our commitment to a robust primary that elevates the best ideas, and to winning in November 2020.”

      As a demonstration of unity, Indivisibles and others will be hosting 2020 unity kickoff events across the country on the weekend after the Democratic National Convention, which they can begin registering now at

      “We believe in rigorous and spirited primaries, and we also know that once we have a nominee, our entire focus must turn to defeating Trump. The “We Are Indivisible” Pledge commits all of us to a debate of ideas followed by dedicated work to make our ideas reality,” Indivisible’s co-executive directors Leah Greenberg and Ezra Levin said. “This pledge is about beating Donald Trump and the anti-democratic, xenophobic right wing. And it’s about the ideas and vision we need for a post-Trump future.”

      The “We Are Indivisible” 2020 Pledge builds on the success of Indivisible’s 2018 midterm endorsement program. To seek the Indivisible Project’s endorsement in a primary, every candidate and every endorsing local Indivisible group had to affirm that they’d endorse the ultimate Democratic primary winner and work hard to elect them. This model empowered Indivisible groups to elevate progressive challengers, including freshman standouts like Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. It also positioned Indivisible groups to serve as unifying forces after the primary, rallying progressives together to knock doors and flip seats across the country.

      Below is the full pledge language:

      The “We Are Indivisible” Pledge

      We must defeat Donald Trump. The first step is a primary contest that produces a strong Democratic nominee. The second step is winning the general election. We will not accept anything less. To ensure this outcome, I pledge to:


      1. Make the primary constructive. We’ll make the primary election about our hopes for the future, and a robust debate of values, vision and the contest of ideas. We’ll remain grounded in our shared values, even if we support different candidates.
      2. Rally behind the winner. We’ll support the ultimate Democratic nominee, whoever it is—period. No Monday morning quarterbacking. No third-party threats.
      3. Do the work to beat Trump. We’re the grassroots army that’s going to power the nominee to victory, and we’ll show up to make calls, knock doors, and do whatever it takes.


      1. Make the primary constructive. I’ll respect the other candidates and make the primary election about inspiring voters with my vision for the future.
      2. Rally behind the winner. I’ll support the ultimate Democratic nominee, whoever it is—period. No Monday morning quarterbacking. No third-party threats. Immediately after there’s a nominee, I’ll endorse.
      3. Do the work to beat Trump. I will do everything in my power to make the Democratic Nominee the next President of the United States. As soon as there is a nominee, I will put myself at the disposal of the campaign.

      # # #


      The Indivisible Project is a registered 501(c)(4) nonprofit. Our mission is to cultivate and lift up a grassroots movement of local groups to defeat the Trump agenda, elect progressive leaders, and realize bold progressive policies. Across the nation, thousands of local groups are using the Indivisible Guide to hold their members of Congress accountable. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate committee.