The Tracy City Council is starting to define the new rules the city will need to allow cannabis businesses in Tracy.
Tuesday’s workshop, held just before the council’s regular meeting, gave city planners a chance to describe how the city could design the business permit process for cannabis shops. The council also discussed the land-use issues that would define where businesses could set up cultivation, processing and retail operations.
Assistant development services director Bill Dean highlighted the land use issues, such as whether a buffer of 600 feet, as required by the state, or a larger buffer of 1,000 feet should be required between a cannabis shop and a youth center, such as a school or park. As examples, he noted that part of the 11th Street corridor near Tracy High School would be off-limits, as would a section of Larch Road just south of Legacy Fields.
Dean said that the other cities he consulted with do not allow outdoor cultivation, citing the smell of the plant as well as water use and the potential for pesticide use. Exceptions to that rule are communities with mostly rural settings.
Dean also outlined five main policy considerations that local cannabis regulations should address, and by the end of the hourlong workshop, the council members had weighed in on each issue. The council did not take any votes.
City finance director Karin Schnaider told the council that after one more workshop on Oct. 1, the city should have land use policies to review, with the City Council likely to vote on new and revised zoning laws later in the fall. By spring, the city should be ready to accept applications for permits to operate cannabis-related businesses.
In addressing production operations, the council considered whether the processing of cannabis flowers into oils and extracts would be clean enough to allow in city limits. The presence of volatile chemicals used in some of the processes concerned most of the council members.
“For one, we haven’t even heard from our fire chief on this,” Mayor Robert Rickman said, adding that his experience as a California Highway Patrol officer had shown him how badly botched processing operations can turn out. “I’ve been to multiple explosions where people have tried to make hash or make oil from marijuana and blew up the whole entire garage or burned themselves and their family members. So unless I get a 100% safety from our fire chief, which we didn’t discuss today, it’s a no.”
Councilwoman Nancy Young said the city’s policy on chemicals used to process cannabis extracts should mirror volatile chemical policies that already apply to local businesses, while Councilman Dan Arriola said he wanted the city to support all types of new cannabis businesses.
“I think we have an incredible opportunity here to really demonstrate that we are good for business, and I think that we should really work on and acknowledge that this is a developing industry and we should eliminate our regulations to ensure success for our businesses,” he said.
The number of retail shops in town may end up being more than the two medical marijuana dispensaries envisioned in previous council discussions. It could be as many as six if the council adopts a standard of one shop for every 15,000 residents, as many cities that host cannabis retailers do today.
Councilwoman Nancy Young thanked the city staff for setting up a tour of cannabis shops in Sacramento last week and said it was an eye-opener for her to see what dispensaries offer, including medicinal extracts and oils.
“The span that it covers is so beyond even what my limited knowledge was,” Young said. “When I think about cannabis, I think about just smoking. There’s a lot of other components to it. It helped to give me a greater respect for the industry and the way businesses were carried out.
“Even going to a specific dispensary where it was directly across the street from a Montessori (school) and they were looking at maybe relocating, the Montessori had a conniption — ‘No! You cannot leave’ — because it actually brings in a little more safety to them. They have the cameras and different security systems around, that even surrounding businesses feel more secure.”
Rickman supported stricter rules, such as a 1,000-foot buffer around youth centers, and he was adamantly opposed to outdoor cultivation.
“The reason being, we’ve had some issues in the past when this law first came out. What we were seeing, people putting concertina wire on their property. We’ve seen people breaking into properties, stealing the marijuana and affecting the neighbors. We’ve seen people with two-by-fours with nails in them so when people jump over the fence they get impaled, and this is the some of the stuff we have seen, so that’s a hard no on that.”
Arriola was the only council member in favor of outdoor cultivation, though there was general support for indoor cultivation businesses.
The council also considered how much of a stake in a business a local permit holder should have. Dean told the council that the statewide standard requires that someone have 20% ownership of a business in order to apply for a cannabis business permit. Tracy’s standard could be more lenient, requiring that a person have only 5% ownership to apply for a city of Tracy permit.
Council members all supported background checks and city-issued badges for local workers in cannabis businesses, be they retail shops or growing and production facilities. Dean noted that this would guard against black market forces continuing to get involved as cannabis entrepreneurs try to find success in an aboveboard business.