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Petitions circulate for and against proposed cannabis dispensary in former Taco Bell building

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APTOS, Calif. (KION) - There has been a call for a public hearing for cannabis dispensaries in Aptos after a dispensary was proposed in a former Taco Bell building.

A petition on Change.org is calling for that public hearing.

"I’m concerned about the location being close to housing (particularly low income). I’m also a mother and teacher and while I don’t oppose medical marijuana, I believe the process that was set up by the county should not be circumvented," commented a supporter of the petition.

The Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance is the dispensary slated to move into the location across from Rancho Del Mar shopping center.

“We understand why the community wouldn’t want any new business being conducted without their input, but in this case it's not a new business. We have community support and not just from the county board and staff,” SCVA chief compliance officer Seth Smith said.

The local veteran run dispensary has been looking to move from its Soquel location for the last three years. The building is too small, and not practical for older clients.

However, there are stiff regulations for cannabis shops to move into new buildings, and a county ordinance makes it even more restrictive.

“One of the main focuses was insuring it was in properly zoned locations mainly commercial areas," county supervisor Zach Friend said. "Away from schools, away from playgrounds even away from affordable housing and residential neighborhoods.”

Since the location on Soquel Dr. has a residential neighborhood behind it, it doesn't fit those regulations. Regardless, last year the cannabis business was approved by the county cannabis department to move into Aptos.

The veteran owned cannabis business is best known for giving veterans with medical cards free cannabis every month. Smith says their new location doesn’t violate any state or county requirements.

“The county amended those set backs last year, not for us specifically, but cannabis businesses in general because they wanted more commercial businesses to be available for cannabis,” Smith said.

Supervisor Friend argues there should be more than just a review from the county before a change like this is made.

“I put forward a motion, that the board supported, that they come back to changes to the ordinance that would require that public process," Friend said. "How that would impact this application? I don’t know, but it would impact anything in the future similar to this.”

Another petition on Change.org, however, is collecting support to allow the dispensary at the previous Taco Bell building in Aptos.

There is currently one other dispensary in Aptos. SCVA said the earliest it would be able to move into the old Taco Bell is next spring.

Central Coast / News / Santa Cruz County
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Max Tarlton

Max Tarlton is a morning anchor at KION News Channel 5/46.

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