Category Archives: Benicia City Council

Benicia cannabis compromise explained in detail

Mary Amey (writing as Manoa Kahalaopuna) has paid close attention to the cannabis controversy in Benicia, posting regularly and in detail on Benicia Nextdoor.  This review (and a second comment far below) is helpful…  

On the June 18 Benicia City Council cannabis decision

By Mary Amey (Manoa Kahalaopuna), Nextdoor

So to explain specifically what happened (there was a lot of back and forth and there was a last minute pivot on the motion to secure Campbell’s vote)…

The motion that passed last night approved ALL of Largaespada’s proposed buffers from the May 7th meeting (600′ around childcare center, youth center, learning center, residential, park – which would ban all appropriately zoned properties), but with the caveat that the the motion would apply to any future dispensary applicants and the existing 9 applicants would be grandfathered in and be allowed to proceed forward under the existing rules that were in place when they applied.

Also, the Council will be allowing 1 retail cannabis license (down from the original 2).

Next step will be the 2nd reading of the ordinance change. Per the Staff Report presented last night, this will occur on July 2nd. So mark your calendars and spread the word! We’ll need as much live in-person support as possible!

It was incredibly frustrating last night is that Largaespada continued to spew misinformation about his buffer zone change claiming all cities have these buffer zones, after I very specifically corrected the record on that item during my statement. His residential buffer zone of 600 feet is the most aggressive buffer zone for residential zones in the Bay Area (and only 2 Bay Area cities with operating dispensaries have such an aggressive residential buffer zone).

And Largaespada showed his true colors by voting against the very buffer zones HE proposed in the first place (just with a compromise to avoid lawsuit). It’s clear he just wants a ban under the guise of him “protecting the people.”

The buffer zones are totally disappointing, but I can accept major compromises needed to be made to prevent an outright ban. And the 9 applications can proceed forward under the old rules for the 1 retail cannabis license, which is a good thing!

[…and a second comment in a later Nextdoor post by Manoa Kahalaopuna…]

There was a lot of discussion regarding clarifying the definition of “schools” in the City Code and adding a 500-600 foot buffer around city public parks. But the Council pivoted at the very last second and modified the motion *right* before the final vote to garner Campbell’s vote because he said he wanted all the buffers (it happened so fast that I missed it last night and had to rewatch the motion this morning after the video was posted online to fully understand the specifics of the motion that was passed).

The motion that was approved was to amend the zoning code to include “all the buffers around the list that we had on the request” (i.e. Largaespada’s full buffer zone list) and “all the applicants would go forward with the hearing process” (i.e. grandfathering existing applicants), and it was further clarified that the new buffers would apply to all future applicants (not existing applicants).

Video below – Fast forward to 4:18.


    Summary and analysis of Benicia City Council’s compromise and reversal of retail cannabis ban

    By Craig Snider, Benicia, June 19, 2019

    The meeting went about the same as the last few.

    The same string of opponents highlighted the same issues as before.  Who knew (?!) that…

      • administering cannabis retail will cost a city nearly $1,000,000 per year,
      • kids should not smoke weed,
      • you could turn into a murderer of old ladies if you smoke pot,
      • a cannabis shop could get robbed at gunpoint with dire consequences,
      • crime skyrockets in towns with cannabis shops,
      • home values will plummet by $100,000-$200,000 in the vicinity of a cannabis shop,
      • the presence of even one cannabis store will destroy a town’s reputation and send it on the road to ruin,
      • the black markets will persist despite the presence of legal cannabis stores, etc., etc.

    The pro-retail cast of characters was smaller than past meetings, and continued to refute the outrageous claims of the Reefer Madness crowd.  I’m guessing many are simply suffering from CMF (Cannabis Meeting Fatigue).

    I presented the petitions with 593 signatures.  About half came from the online   The Council asked me about next steps and I said we were encouraged by the ease of a handful of folks gathering so many signatures in just two weeks, and would likely move forward with a ballot initiative if a retail ban were enacted.

    Not surprisingly, Largaespada and Strawbridge were unmoved by any sort of argument.  They are both aligned with the Reefer Madness crowd and unwilling to view the issue objectively.

    As demonstrated often in the past, Tom Campbell sought a compromise position and to his credit, decided to honor the current process by “grandfathering in” the nine applicants under the Feb. 20, 2018, ordinance; but awarding just one permit (not two).  In a nod to the anti-retail crowd, he agreed to impose more restrictive buffers around parks, etc. for any future retail cannabis applicants.  This was a compromise on Tom’s part because throughout the process he’s been steadfast in restricting retail to the industrial park.

    Personally, I was disappointed that we won’t have two locations.  From a business perspective, with a goal of fostering successful small businesses in Benicia, it would be better to have some competition and, if one fails, the other would hopefully succeed.  On the other hand, one store will still be competing with the well-greased Vallejo contingent and a single store might be more likely to succeed in the more limited Benicia and vicinity market.

    Of note was the discussion of administrative costs to the City.  The council peppered city staff with questions about cost, especially after Largaespada suggested it run over half a million dollars. City staff consistently stated they didn’t know, but that it would not differ much from other businesses.  Staff deferred to Chief Upson, who suggested they would likely hire a contractor to do periodic compliance checks regarding security and operations for two cannabis shops.  He suggested the cost could be as high as half an employee-year, but he would contract that work at significantly less that the cost of a police officer.   He thought it could run $30,000 per year for the contract.  With only one retail store, the cost would, of course, be much less.

    Craig Snider


      Benicia City Council reverses cannabis ban – votes to approve one retail outlet

      Brief report by email from City Council member Steve Young this morning:

      “The Council voted 3-2, (Largaespada and Strawbridge opposed) to allow for one retail dispensary. Staff was directed to rank order the applications and to present to Planning Commission for action. If the Planning Commission approves one of the nine existing applications, after review of all relevant issues (parking, security, etc.), the choice can be called up by the City Council for final approval. The result was a compromise.”


        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.