SAND CITY – City officials in Sand City are seeking community feedback on the question of allowing commercial cannabis businesses within the city’s limits in a survey has posted on the city’s website (https://www.sandcity.org/our-community/commercial-cannabis-survey).
“At a December 2020 council meeting there was a public presentation made from a prospective cannabis retailer,” said Aaron Blair, Sand City city manager. “During that meeting, there was a request made for council to reconsider its stance on commercial cannabis. The council directed staff to place the item on a future agenda.”
At the Feb. 2 council meeting, a proposed “Roadmap to Cannabis” was provided by city staff and direction was given to begin collecting stakeholder feedback to assist the council in determining whether to amend the city’s municipal code to allow commercial cannabis activities in Sand City.
According to the city’s website, data from the survey will be compiled and the overall results will be used to assist the planning process. Completed surveys are to be submitted by midnight March 12.
Blair said the data collection process is not due to the failed tax measure, or the looming loss of revenue from the desalination plant lease.
“The city will continue to operate as lean as possible without impacting services to the community,” said Blair.
Sand City had placed its Measure U on the November ballot that sought to increase the city’s sales tax by .5%, from 8.75% to 9.25% and more in line with other Monterey Peninsula cities such as Seaside, Marina, Monterey, and Carmel. Pacific Grove voters passed that city’s tax measure on the same ballot matching its sales tax to the other cities. Salinas also has a comparable sales tax of 9.25%.
Sand City’s Measure U would have generated an estimated $1 million annually but was defeated by 55% of city voters.
Even before the November election, Sand City had made across-the-board cuts of 10% to 20% depending on the department and implemented a hiring freeze.
The city is also facing a looming drop in revenue when its lease agreement with California American Water for the desalination plant in Sand City changes terms.
Sand City built and launched its own desal plant in 2010 at a total cost of $11.9 million. A California Department of Water Resources grant for $2.9 million was awarded to help defray the cost and the city paid the rest of the expense through redevelopment bonds and capital improvement funds.
The city entered into a long-term operating lease agreement with Cal Am to repay the city’s costs of the plant over time. The agreement allows Cal Am to operate the plant and distribute water through its system in exchange for allowing the city to recoup its project costs. The water company has been paying $850,000 annually to the city, which owns the plant, and will continue to do so for three more years. In 2024, Cal Am will begin paying $7,000 annually.
Sand City is looking for guidance from the community about its position, values and beliefs regarding potential commercial cannabis businesses in the city so that city leaders can plan for the future.
In 2016, California voters passed Proposition 64 and legalized the adult recreational use of cannabis leaving it up to each municipality to decide if and how commercial cannabis, retail, manufacturing, cultivation, events, and testing should be conducted in each community.
The use of medicinal marijuana was legalized in California in 1996.
Sand City has thus far not allowed for commercial cannabis retail, manufacturing, or cultivation.
In 2015, Del Rey Oaks was the first Monterey Peninsula city to open a marijuana dispensary and that same year Salinas allowed a pot edibles manufacturing plant to open. Today Seaside and Marina, as well as unincorporated areas in Monterey County such as in Carmel, Big Sur, and Moss Landing, have opted to allow commercial cannabis operations.
Sand City has a current adopted budget for fiscal year 2020-2021 that includes $7,336,020 in revenues and $6,875,700 in expenses.
Since the cannabis industry went into high gear in January 2018, California has raised $1 billion in cannabis tax revenue, according to figures released in early 2020.
Contributed by local news sources