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City leaves cannabis businesses high and dry

Permit process stalls as City Council reconsiders where to allow legal sales

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Potential pot businesses in Mountain View have been left high and dry by the City Council, which delayed a scheduled lottery for a limited number of permits, and is keeping the applicants in the dark about their future.

Last year, the council voted to issue four licenses -- two for storefront retail shops and two to delivery services. The city received applications from 10 would-be cannabis business owners and scheduled a lottery to select the winners in March.

But progress on the issue slowed in 2019 after last November's election saw two pro-cannabis-business council members ousted. The new majority on the City Council has since voted to revisit the regulations and, city staff said, the application process is on hold.

Those recent delays have the cannabis industry "beside themselves," said lobbyist Sean Kali-rai with the Silicon Valley Cannabis Alliance. He says Mountain View hasn't informed the people who applied for cannabis licenses about their status and hasn't responded to questions about when the process could resume.

"The real problem here is the lack of information going forward," Kali-rai said. "There seems to be no urgency in getting this resolved."

Former Mountain View Mayor Lenny Siegel criticized the current council for putting off the lottery and keeping applicants in the dark.

"The delay is a problem because businesses have been investing on the chance that they might win the lottery and now they can't do business," Siegel said.

The city's Environmental Planning Commission will consider proposed amendments to the cannabis ordinance on Wednesday, April 24. The City Council will have its first reading of those changes on May 23. Meanwhile, the 10 applicants are still paying rent, waiting and hoping to be awarded a license.

Councilman Lucas Ramirez, who voted with the council majority to reconsider the law, defended his decision.

"I believe the reason a majority of the council wanted to revisit this is because we were hearing legitimate concerns from the community about the clustering of businesses downtown," Ramirez said. "I voted against an outright ban. But I voted to have a discussion about what kind of buffers are appropriate based on those concerns."

With the future of legal cannabis sales in Mountain View hanging in the balance, a Bay Area assemblyman recently proposed a bill to force California cities to issue retail licenses if a majority of its voters opted to legalize recreational marijuana when it was on the 2016 ballot.

Council critics say reconsidering the decision to halt the permit process is a brazen attempt to discourage or prevent cannabis businesses from locating in Mountain View.

And that's where Assembly Bill 1356 comes in.

Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, authored a bill that could require Mountain View and other cities to start issuing licenses. It proposes that cities in which a majority of voters supported legalization must issue one cannabis business license for every four licenses they issue to businesses that serve liquor. In 2016, nearly 68 % of Mountain View residents voted for legalization.

Ting says local governments that stall on legalization subvert the will of the voters and put the legal marijuana market at risk.

"Californians voted to replace the illicit market with a legal system," Ting said.

But that can only happen "if enough licenses are granted to meet existing demand," he said. "This bill will ensure the legal market can succeed."

Kali-rai says the bill should serve as a wake-up call to local governments, and a warning that if they fail to "implement good public policy, the state will take over."

"Cities like Mountain View up and down the Peninsula should be acutely aware of the consequences of this Assembly bill," he said.

Mountain View Mayor Lisa Matichak says Sacramento lawmakers ought to leave these kinds of decisions to local officials.

"I have concerns with any proposed legislation that takes away local control," Matichak said. "There are many differences between the cities in California, making a one-size-fits-all approach to any proposed legislation problematic."

Siegel, who was on the City Council when voters passed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, said he also favors local control.

"I believe Mountain View residents by a strong majority support cannabis businesses in town, but I would prefer that those decisions be made locally," Siegel said.

The proposed bill will have its first hearing before the Assembly's Business and Professions Committee on April 23. If it were to pass the state Legislature and be signed by the governor, the bill would allow cities to opt out of the 1-to-4 ratio requirement if they ask voters to consider local prohibition on the 2020 ballot.

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40 people like this
Posted by MV Renter
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 18, 2019 at 11:09 am

I'm actually quite pleased by this, for two reasons:

1.) It lets some other city be the first, so we can observe how to do it right if we decide to do it

2.) It encourages my neighbors to truly be democratically heard. Maybe someone will put it on the ballot or work with the City Attorney to settle once and for all that the majority of Mountain View really wants cannabis retail. We already know for sure that the majority of Mountain View decriminalized the use of cannabis. Legality and retail and two different things.

163 people like this
Posted by SRB
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Apr 18, 2019 at 11:47 am

The 10 applicants played by the rules, they are willing to invest in our City ... there is absolutely no excuse for the current City Council to leave them in the dark.

As to Lucas Ramirez quote, it's quite a disingenuous statement:

1. Not aware of any public statement around cannabis during his campaign
2. His concern around clustering was addressed by Chris Clark (no store within a certain radius from another) and adopted by Council.
3. Despite that, he ALSO voted with the ban supporters to revise buffering distances using the San Jose model which if applied to Mountain View would amount to a de facto ban.

Leave it to politicians to want their brownie and eat it too.

187 people like this
Posted by voted yes
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 18, 2019 at 12:38 pm

voted yes is a registered user.

This delaying tactic is some kind of government BS and should not be rewarded. I sincerely hope that every applicant sue the mvcc.

108 people like this
Posted by LBJ
a resident of Castro City
on Apr 18, 2019 at 2:20 pm

Lisa if you want local control with no outside Sacramento involvement, then act on the will of the 68% of Mountain View residents who voted for legalization. To not do so would be another reply all mistake.

218 people like this
Posted by Assembly Bill 1356
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 18, 2019 at 2:24 pm

Assembly Bill 1356 is a registered user.

I do hope bill 1356 passes. My question is: How many licenses for serving alcohol has the city issued? If these terrified politicians' delaying tactics cause the state to come in and enact the will of the voters, then the result could be many MORE marijuana distributing businesses than the four proposed so far. And why not.

29 people like this
Posted by Kal Sandhu
a resident of Castro City
on Apr 18, 2019 at 2:35 pm

One should never go back on a promise. A promise was made to the residents of Mountain VIew and potential CBD businesses did their due diligence and applied for the permits. I understand the current council's concerns. If they are changing the rulkes then they should set the new guidelines and invite everyone, interested in selling marijuana and its products, to re-apply again.

43 people like this
Posted by MV Realist
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 18, 2019 at 2:38 pm

MV Realist is a registered user.

It's clear that @SRB, @Voted Yes, and @LBJ are acting on behalf of Lenny Siegel. MV revisited the issue because Lenny pushed Cannabis sales through they way he and his supporters wanted it, not based upon a mix of community concerns. By the time many in the community expressed concerns it was "too late" to get Lenny and the rest of the council to change course, because as Mayor, he decided time tables, ran the debate and could manage everything to his liking.

Then those who weren't heard during the discussions before voted in November, and changed out the council. This lack of listening was a prime reason Lenny was voted out (not just on Cannabis). But he continues to call the Voice and spin his stories, and get his flying monkeys to swoop in with negative comments to trash anyone who disagrees.

As planned, "The city's Environmental Planning Commission will consider proposed amendments to the cannabis ordinance on Wednesday, April 24. The City Council will have its first reading of those changes on May 23." Maybe the Cannabis businesses and their lobbies shouldn't have been so sure that Lenny's push through of the regulation would hold. As it is, the council voted to revisit the issue to give some weight to others in the community besides Cannabis supporters.

If the Voice wasn't Lenny's tool, the headline would read something like: Moderation by Council Forces Cannabis Businesses to Wait for Equitable Compromise for Everyone in MV.

Yeah, it's boring and the flying monkey's can't have a field day with that headline. But it's more reflective of the reality across town.

19 people like this
Posted by Really?
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Apr 18, 2019 at 3:08 pm

@ MV Realist

> acting on behalf of Lenny Siegel.

Ah yes, the "everyone who disagrees with me is a plant" canard. Definitely rooted in objective reality, I'm sure, eh 'Realist'?

9 people like this
Posted by LBJ
a resident of Castro City
on Apr 18, 2019 at 3:18 pm

Who the heck is Lenny? I just want my gummies. Not everyone is n the weeds with local politics . . . GOT (spell it out for those not in the know, Game of Thrones) though, now you're talkin.

183 people like this
Posted by voted yes
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 18, 2019 at 4:04 pm

voted yes is a registered user.

@MV realist, if anything, Lenny was acting ON OUR BEHALF. Which is exactly what the council should be doing. What they should NOT DO is listen to the whining loudest minority posting here. 2/3 of voters voted yes. If the council fails to allow these dispensaries to open it's because they are foisting their wishes on the voting majority. I will remember this next time I vote.

269 people like this
Posted by Proud Taxpayer
a resident of another community
on Apr 18, 2019 at 4:59 pm

Proud Taxpayer is a registered user.

Seems like Lucas Ramirez and others want to be voted out of office. The nearly 68% of Mountain View residents who voted for legalization and to allow cannabis businesses are more than enough to make this happen.

18 people like this
Posted by ?Support
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2019 at 5:28 pm

I am pleased the city council has revisited this issue as I'm beyond stunned that 10 businesses are vying for licenses in Mountain View. I support a cannabis store location in Mountain View BUT NOT FOUR!!! With the number of cannabis stores in San Jose, including ones that deliver, why approve four locations in Mountain View?

38 people like this
Posted by Interested
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Apr 18, 2019 at 6:00 pm

Here we go again with the word games and false assumptions pushed by those wanting cannabis retailers in Mountain View. These claims have been debunked. Give it up, already.

I voted to DECRIMINALIZE marijuana use. I DID NOT vote to LEGALIZE cannabis SALES in my city. The vast majority of people I know voted the same way for the SAME REASONS. The vote said "decriminalize" - and you jump to your false conclusion that it means sell it here? No.

Follow the money. Of course the cannabis dealers want storefront sales in Mountain View - thus people who are PAID BY this industry push the sales as well - as it means more $$ in their pockets. Thus they manipulate the truth to fit their scenario. Siegel and Showalter were kicked off the Council because the majority of MV voters were not in line with their "pro-pot" and "pro-RVs on the streets" votes.

Now we have a Council that is careful, deliberate, and who REPRESENTS the people who elected them. Yes, there is some clean-up to do, and yes, it will take time. However, I doubt anyone is crying for the cannabis industry, which already makes tons of money delivering whatever a MV customer wants within an hour, from their San Jose or San Francisco locations. They just are kept from immediately opening storefronts on Castro and other undesirable pot store locations, reflecting the will of the majority of MV.

And "Voted Yes" and "Proud Taxpayer" - your skewed logic is amusing. You threaten to vote OUT of office those who are slowing down the drug industry in MV, in the next election? I remind you, the current Councilmembers were voted INTO office because they understood that "Voting to decriminalize is not the same as voting to OPEN DISPENSARIES". The misdirected and phony "logic" of those who push dispensaries FAILED - and that's why the majority of voters voted OUT Siegel and Showalter.

Those who say they benefit from cannabis oil, can still get it quite easily (and delivered to their door within an hour) so nobody is deprived of what they want. The too rapid push - by the former Council majority - is simply being moderated and reviewed in light of representing the majority of MV that voted merely to decriminalize, NOT to open distributorships in our city.

69 people like this
Posted by Randy Guelph
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Apr 18, 2019 at 6:13 pm

Interested, you must have forgotten your reading glasses when marking your ballot. Prop 64 did not say it would "decriminalize" weed, it *legalized* it. This is an important distinction.

1 person likes this
Posted by night walk8r
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 18, 2019 at 8:33 pm

Just not the collective that is nationwide, MEDMEN. They suck a $$. Ty

2 people like this
Posted by night walk8r
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 18, 2019 at 8:36 pm

Seriously. Their san jose store has a 2 star rating after buddy's cannabis (which was the first collective in, guess where? Yup. Mountain View

Like this comment
Posted by night walk8r
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2019 at 8:38 pm

They bought buddys out.

36 people like this
Posted by Common sense
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 19, 2019 at 6:19 am

Exactly Randy. "Interested" knows all about "word games and false assumptions," and once again insists (at protracted length, with angry capital letters) on wishful interpretations of the various separate pollings, all demonstrating (to readers who are actually objective) widespread public willingness to bring cannabis trade "out of the shadows," eliminate the black market, add tax-paying businesses, and honor the City Council's existing pledge to businesses.

Along with wishful whims about why "Siegel and Showalter were kicked off the Council," "Interested" here also is quick to impute and impugn motives of anyone who disagrees. According to "Interested," the only possible motivation for those of us not personally invested in the new businesses is to save ourselves a trip to SJ cannabis stores! That stuff (which will continue) is all really, really silly. I wish such people could see how they come across. (If I reasoned like "Interested," I'd claim "Interested" posts all this to protect some existing illicit cannabis business threatened by the tide of legalization. But I don't reason like that.)

I've wondered what is the real motivation of the minority of MV residents still militantly, insistently resistant to the broad trend of legalizing cannabis products. It's hard to learn, because no one I've asked feels that way (and those speaking publicly tend to use rhetorical points rather than telling their own motivations.) But it seems to include fear, and unfamiliarity. Both will inevitably fade with time.

50 people like this
Posted by Jan Johnston-Tyler
a resident of Waverly Park
on Apr 19, 2019 at 11:23 am

Hey, not a problem -- we'll just vote those out who are SUBVERTING THE WILL OF CALIFORNIA VOTERS and who continue in their 'NIMBY' ways.

I'm ashamed, frankly, that the city I specifically chose nearly 30 years ago to call my home is acting in such imbecilic, backwards ways.

As a mother to two children raised here, as property owner, a citizen -- and a CBD user -- I will take it as a personal mission to vote out anyone who is subverting the will of the STATE and the vast majority of MV to placate a few loud naysayers.

And let's call it what it is -- the meeting next week was cancelled because you didn't want WELL-EDUCATED, LEGITIMATE, UPSTANDING CITIZENS like ME showing up and calling bullpucky.

Shame, shame, shame. Don't come to my house canvassing next election, because I will give you an earful. Worse yet, don't make me so angry that I run against you.

Jan (of HCD/business tax overreach'fame')

12 people like this
Posted by Marcin Romaszewicz
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 19, 2019 at 4:45 pm

Marcin Romaszewicz is a registered user.

The tyranny of the majority and its alleged representatives strike again.

Whenever people argue whether something should be allowed or banned, I wonder why do we always think that voting is the way to decide? It's pretty clear that marijuana doesn't turn cities into stoner concerts, just like alcohol doesn't turn them into drunken brawls.

I don't particularly like the smell of marijuana, and I'm not a user, but I voted to legalize it because the notion of government locking people up in prison for smoking or eating a plant is abhorrent to me. Furthermore, if my neighbors want to partake of the stuff, just don't go blowing the smoke in my face, and I'll be fine with it. If someone wants to sell it in a shop and make some money, that's the American way. I'd object to drunks throwing cans in my yard in the same way, but somehow, it doesn't happen despite so many liquor shops.

I'm very disappointed with this decision by the city council. The death of freedom doesn't come all at once, but in a lot of little pokes and cuts, and this is a fine example of losing a tiny bit of freedom that we briefly regained.

25 people like this
Posted by Lenny Siegel
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 19, 2019 at 6:37 pm

Lenny Siegel is a registered user.

Oppose De Facto Cannabis Prohibition

At 7 pm Wednesday April 24, 2019 the Mountain View Environmental Planning Commission will be considering, for recommendation to the City Council, a series of additional restrictions on cannabis (marijuana) sales in Mountain View. For details, see Web Link. The meeting will take place in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 500 Castro Street, Mountain View.

Last October the Mountain View City Council voted 5 to 2 in favor of a compromise program that would allow two storefront and two non-storefront (delivery) cannabis businesses in Mountain View, under state law established by Proposition 64, passed overwhelming by voters in November, 2016.

As mayor at the time, I actually thought we could permit more and benefit from the competition. I believe that people who legally use marijuana should be able to buy it legally, and the best way to ensure that the products and businesses are safe is to bring the trade out from underground and regulate it.

The Council established an application process that established strict requirements as well as a lottery to choose among qualifying businesses. Eight storefront businesses and two delivery businesses applied, investing substantially in the leases required of all applicants.

However, without warning, new Council members decided to re-consider the rules. On March 5 they took several votes after hearing from over 125 public speakers, some for and some against cannabis. The Council directed staff to come back with proposals to further restrict cannabis businesses, and those are what the Planning Commission will be reviewing on Wednesday.

The Council proposed to limit downtown cannabis businesses to two and proposed a half-mile buffer between businesses to prevent “clustering.” (I don’t know why two businesses are considered a cluster.)

Only Mayor Matichak and Vice-Mayor Abe-Koga supported an outright ban on cannabis businesses, but then five Council members supported Abe-Koga’s duplicitous proposal for buffer zones on the “San Jose model.” At the time city staff reported, and the new staff report confirms, that this would amount to de facto prohibition.

I believe most Mountain View residents/voters were comfortable with the approach taken by the Council majority last October. If you agree that cannabis should be safe and legal in Mountain View, please write the Planning Commission at and/or attend the April 24 meeting.

The Council is tentatively scheduled to act on the recommendations on May 23.

1 person likes this
Posted by Lenny Siegel
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 19, 2019 at 10:32 pm

Lenny Siegel is a registered user.

Possible correction: The March 5 vote for the “San Jose model” may have been 4 to 3.


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