CALIFORNIA: Aspiring marijuana entrepreneurs would do well to study the story of “Richmond Compassionate Care” in the San Francisco-Bay Area.
The would-be cannabis dispensary’s operators spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over two years and bent over backwards to open in the liberal city of Richmond, yet were rejected July 30 due to community fears about increased crime and pot use.
A Richmond Compassionate Care (dba ‘Comunity’) spokesperson said the group is considering their options after the denial of a city permit to operate the licensed dispensary at 425 South 3rd St. in an industrial part of Richmond.
“We got pretty much railroaded,” RCC’s spokesperson said.
RCC’s operators obtained a dispensary permit from the City of Richmond in December 2011 to open a club in the Hilltop Mall area. But a federal crackdown on marijuana businesses forced RCC to seek a different location further away from sensitive uses like schools and parks.
RCC found one at 425 S. 3rd St., located in a “C-2 General Commercial” zone set behind train tracks in a cul de sac with no foot traffic just off Interstate 580. The business has no close neighbors. RCC then applied to transfer the permit to the new location and open the club. During the nearly-two year-long process RCC:
– paid rent totalling $200,000, as well as $130,000 in permit fees to the City of Richmond.
– agreed to a first-source hiring agreement that gave Richmond residents a first-shot at jobs in the business, as well as agreed to make sure 50 percent of staff was Richmond residents.
– agreed to hire two, full-time police officers dedicated to patrolling the dispensary’s neighborhood.
– obtained letters from Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus stating the increased patrols would have a “meaningful impact” on crime in the area, which saw ten incidents in a recent 45-day period, including one battery, two thefts and three burglaries.
– and install a “negative air pressurization” system in the club to prevent pot odor from escaping the isolated dispensary.
– CCD’s board of directors included a pharmacist with letters of recommendation from a U.S. Congressman and State Senator. [The president of Smell the Truth’s parent company Tru Media, is also on RCC’s advisory board.]
The Richmond City Attorney, City Manager and head of the Finance Department signed off on the location transfer, and the permit was scheduled for formal approval at a July 30 hearing. But RCC faced resistance.
According to councilman Jael Myrick, locals in the Santa Fe Neighborhood felt cut out of the permit process as far back as May. “They were very, very offended,” he said.
Janie Holland, head of the Santa Fe Neighborhood Community Group did not return calls.
According to Myrick, neighbors felt the pot club would make problems with hard drug dealing and prostitution in the industrial area worse.
Richmond Chief Police Chief Magnus takes no formal position on dispensaries, but wrote in a letter to the Council regarding RCC that “we have not seen spikes in crime in the other areas where dispensaries currently operate.” Richmond has four open dispensaries.
Chief Magnus said the addition of two police officers dedicated to the Santa Fe Neighborhood would have a “meaningful impact” on public safety in the area.
At the hearing, at least 14 individuals spoke out against RCC, including Don Woodrow, the president of Richmond’s Neighborhood Coordinating Council. No more than eight people spoke in favor of the dispensary. One speaker called the promise of more cops, city fees, and sales taxes a pay-off, Myrick said.
“They’re looking at it as, ‘Oh, they’re bribing you’.”
The Richmond City council voted 4-3 to deny the transfer of the location.
RCC’s spokesperson said a small, misinformed clique denied the struggling city at least eight or more good-paying jobs, two full-time police officers valued at $450,000 per year, millions of dollars in city tax revenue, and a safe place to obtain the life-saving pain and nausea botanical.
Myrick said he voted “no” out of respect for the neighborhood group. Affluent whites in nearby Point Richmond rejected a Subway sandwich franchise, he said. Marginalized minorities in a rougher part of town had the right to reject a more contentious business.
“It would be inconsistent to not apply the same standard,” Myrick said. “It’s a little more controversial than a Subway.”