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Monterey considers zoning cannabis dispensaries in three different parts of the city

MONTEREY, Calif. (KION) Monterey City Council voted 4-1 to move forward with the road map to consider permitting three or fewer dispensaries. Among the locations were Old Town Monterey except for Alvarado Street, Cannery Row except for Cannery Row, Lighthouse Avenue and discuss the possibility of North Freemont.

"Tonight is not the night where you make a decision of where you want to put them," said City Manager Hans Uslar. "Tonight is where we hope you give us the next step to explore where we want to put the commercial cannabis retailers."

Monterey City Council discussed the possibility of having a cannabis retail location in the city for over 2 hours on Tuesday evening.

The resident survey came out with 70.8% from the postcard and 74.9% from online supporting limiting the number of permits in Monterey. The HdL Commercial Cannabis Retail Analysis reported that the market could sustain up to three locations in Monterey since there are currently 9 existing retailers on the Peninsula and 7 within 1.5 miles of North Freemont district.

Monterey's touristic districts like Cannery Row and Old Town Monterey generate 5.8 million visitors as opposed to the nearly 60 thousand residents. According to the HdL analysis, these locations would have customers to themselves and wouldn't have to compete with other cities.

The three dispensaries cannot be on any hotel properties, any locations fronting Alvarado Street or within 600 feet from schools, daycares, and youth centers according to state standards. Councilmember Ed Smith also addresses the possibility of including parks and recreation within the 600 feet buffer zone.

There are currently 457 cultivation licenses, 48 nurseries, 66 distributors, 30 manufacturers, 23 retailers, and 1 testing laboratory in Monterey County. Of the 505 cultivation and nursery licenses in the County, 142 separate companies hold those licenses.

Currently, the dispensary in Del Rey Oaks generates $300 thousand per year and in Seaside, the 6 retailers generate $1.2 million per year. If Monterey were to permit a dispensary in any of those three recommended locations (Lighthouse Avenue, Cannery Row, and Downtown), it could generate between $400 thousand to $1.3 million dollars in taxes and revenue for the city, whereas having them in non-touristic locations would generate up to $237 thousand.

After their presentation on the economic findings, the council opened the floor to public comment.

One caller suggested adding a cannabis bar or restaurant on North Fremont. "If we had a location where users can socialize in, that it would make it a destination of, probably not the peninsula, but the whole region," Esther Malkin said. "While we're not necessarily considering a dispensary for North Fremont, I think that having a place that they can socialize in would really be an excellent substitute and make it a draw for everybody, whether it's during the events that may or may not be happening at the fairgrounds."

While the option for a cannabis lounge was not dismissed, Smith brought up his concern over safety about having people driving to the city to consume alcohol and marijuana in the area, as well as the lack of research in this type of establishment.

"The city of Monterey is not only in the business to make money for the city. It's for the security and safety of our children." said another resident, Donald Anthony. "And this has got to stop because cannabis is definitely an entry-level drug."

Another Monterey resident responded to Anthony's response using her personal experience watching her brother struggle with anxiety and be able to overcome those struggles with cannabis. "I have a patient community that drives from your community and from Seaside, and from Greenfield and from Salinas. To see why we're different," said Valentia Valentine, the CEO of Synchronicity Holistic Dispensary. "I have judges. I have attorneys and doctors that come to me, that still have that chain of just say no. And what we do is we educate, to help overcome that."

The only council member who voted no on Tuesday's motion was Ed Smith, who was a former police officer. "I do think its a gateway drug and I do think it attracts the kind of economic development that I'm also not in favor of," Smith said. "I just don't want to see it in Monterey."

Councilmember Alan Hoffa pointed out the amount of tax revenue that could be made from the dispensaries that could go toward public goods, like building a homeless shelter. "There's so many myths around cannabis. We've criminalized it for so long, we've ruined a lot of lives by criminalizing it, and there still seems to be a stigma I don't fully understand," said Hoffa. " I think if we as a government are going to limit people's access to something that they want. There really needs to be an overriding public safety concern that simply does not objectively exists."

The city council has yet to vote on whether or not they will permit a cannabis dispensary in the city. As of right now, their next step is to prepare and review a Specific Plan, Zoning, and Costal Plan as well as hold public hearings before deciding where to permit a marijuana retail store.

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Melody Waintal

Melody Waintal is the Digital Content Reporter at KION News Channel 5/46.

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