EPC opts for less strict constraints on cannabis shops | May 3, 2019 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

News - May 3, 2019

EPC opts for less strict constraints on cannabis shops

by Adam F. Hutton

A Mountain View Environmental Planning Commission meeting ended in disappointment last Wednesday night for some silent protesters who hoped to stop cannabis businesses from opening in the city.

The commission considered changing the city's cannabis business regulations and recommended some new restrictions — including limiting the number of businesses in the downtown area to a single storefront and banning them entirely from the area around the San Antonio shopping center.

Dozens of demonstrators showed up at the April 17 meeting to support increasing restrictions on proposed dispensaries. Most of them did not address the commission, and those who spoke most convincingly declined to be interviewed by the Voice.

A smaller number of people who did not oppose the city's plan to offer permits to a limited number of cannabis businesses were longtime residents of the city who agreed to speak with the Voice after the meeting.

Rules adopted by the City Council in October would allow four permits: two for retail storefronts and two for delivery-only cannabis businesses. Last week, the commission recommended some changes, but none that would necessarily reduce the the total number of permits. In March, the council asked the commission to consider imposing more restrictions and directed staff to write a report based on the city of San Jose's laws.

"I felt that the anti-marijuana faction, driven by irrational fear, was gaining influence over the City Council," said Curt Carlson, a longtime Mountain View resident who attended the meeting.

Carlson said he attended the meeting to "push back against the anti-science mindset of the opposition that is using fear mongering and misinformation to support their position."

The protesters arrived en masse and left together when the commission voted to recommend the least restrictive option to the City Council. It was a rejection of the so-called San Jose model, which one commissioner said would amount to a de facto ban on cannabis businesses in Mountain View. Instead, commissioners voted to keep a 600-foot buffer between businesses and schools and 250 feet of separation from daycare centers, as compared to buffers of 1,000 feet and 500 feet in San Jose.

Many of the protesters listened to a Chinese language translation of the proceedings on headsets. A translator stood outside the council chambers watching a closed-circuit television broadcast the meeting until the commission voted against recommending an increase in mandatory buffers.

The group held printed signs with slogans like "Kids Matter, Say NO to a Pot Head Society" and "Don't Twist Our Votes! Taxing Pot Shops (does not equal) Approval to Open," referring to the city's 2018 ballot measure establishing a tax on cannabis, which passed by a large margin.

Serge Bonte, a 20-year resident of Mountain View wrote in a letter to the commission: "When I voted to legalize recreational cannabis — which I never used — my hope was to have cannabis treated on par with alcohol (as the) best way to remove the stigma inherited from the failed and devastating war on drugs, (and the) best way to obliterate the crime-ridden black market.

"I supported the ordinance adopted last fall as a good and prudent first step that would prove that the sky won't fall with cannabis stores," he wrote.

Ivy Xu, one of the protesters who addressed the commission, told a reporter from another newspaper that she was not a part of any group, just a concerned mother who has lived in Mountain View for five years.

"We're all just volunteers and concerned citizens," she said.

In her prepared remarks, Xu urged the commission to adopt the so-called San Jose model. San Jose requires buffers around things like parks, community centers and libraries — Mountain View does not. San Jose also has restrictions on how closely retail cannabis business can be located to housing, and since most of Mountain View is residential, such restrictions would effectively ban them.

Commissioner Bill Cranston said he wouldn't even consider that.

"The council hasn't asked us to consider repealing the ordinance," Cranston told the Voice. "And that's what the San Jose model would do."

The city's Planning Department solicited applications starting in December and by the February deadline, had accepted 10 from would-be cannabis business owners for a lottery selection process that has since been delayed. By April, city staff had deemed six of the applications to be ineligible for the lottery.

With only four applications remaining, city staff said a maximum of two businesses could be awarded permits under the amended ordinance if the lottery is held — one retail storefront and one delivery business. That's because the city only deemed only one of the two delivery service applications eligible, and the three remaining storefront applicants are all located downtown, where council members said they didn't want to see multiple shops.

The City Council is scheduled to consider the Environmental Planning Commission's recommendations on changing the ordinance at its May 23 meeting.

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