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Cotati passes temporary commercial cannabis ordinance

By: Katherine Minkiewicz
December 15, 2017

Cotati is now the first city in Sonoma County to allow the sale of recreational marijuana starting Jan. 1. The Cotati City Council decided in a unanimous 5-0 vote to approve an urgency ordinance that would prohibit most commercial cannabis uses — except for the existing permitted business of Mercy Wellness Center on Redwood Drive. This interim ordinance will remain in place until the final city and land use regulations are finalized, according to the agenda item report prepared by City Manager Damien O’Bid.

“This essentially freezes all the uses until we get the final regulations in place, but carves out and allows and uses what Mercy does today, so they will continue to operate legally. It also allows for adults to use it with a medical card with this in place,” O’Bid explained at Tuesday night’s meeting.

The other goal of this ordinance is also to help reduce customer and user confusion and to allow the current operating dispensary, “continued competitiveness… during this transitionary period,” the agenda report notes.

Felicia, a medical marijuana patient who is the project manager and ambassador for Mercy Wellness and a cancer survivor, expressed support for the ordinance as it would continue to allow medical use for those who need it.

“It also allows Mercy Wellness to enter into the adult use market, ensuring that we are not left behind or stuck in some legal, non-conforming loophole from the new state regulations. This urgency ordinance ensures patients like me to have continued access during the transitory, regulatory period. This is so important to so many people,” she said   

Another supporter of the ordinance, Amber said this was a good move for the city since she says, Mercy is a “model” business of how a successful dispensary should be. 

“I’ve witnessed them giving to many important causes and roundup use in public arenas in my time working with them. Passing this ordinance tonight allows them to continue operating as they have been for the past seven years. The state just changed the ordinance in September and this ordinance aligns the local rules with new state rules, allowing adult use access in the beginning of the year,” Amber said, who also urged the council to continue the issuing of other licensees for other businesses who want to partake in the industry of adult and medical use.

Brandon Levine, the executive director of Mercy Wellness was also present at the meeting and expressed similar thoughts of support for the ordinance. He also mentioned that the ordinance has another level of importance because it will allow the dispensary to comply with state and city regulations moving forward. According to him, it would also bring the dispensary into the relatively new trend of adult use, which more and more cities are moving towards.

“Every city and county that we are working with are either talking about or they are working on an emergency ordinance,” Levine said.

The new emergency ordinance will be effective for 45 days until Jan. 26, however, according to the agenda report, it is expected that the ordinance will have to be extended.

Vice Mayor Mark Landman said of the interim act, “I think this is important for local businesses and it would be additional revenue for the city, so from my perspective, I do not see a downside to this and I would be more than willing to support this.”