Commentary: Council Makes Some Interesting Decisions on Cannabis

Good People Farms was one of several quality applicants not to get elected

On Tuesday night, the Davis City Council decided what the future of cannabis in Davis would look like.  The answer, at least to start, is not what you might have thought even 24 months ago.  I have a lot of different reflections that I will share here.

First, if you were expecting a bunch of head shops to be opening, or a bunch of ex-hippies, or some surfer dude rolling out of his van, enveloped in smoke and smacking his head with his shoe, you will likely be surprised.

At least at the start, the cannabis industry in Davis is looking like high class, upper market, professional businesses.  They are led by fairly young, business savvy leadership teams that look like they would be more at home at Harvard Business School than surfing the waves at Venice Beach.  And that’s the point.

Cannabis figures to be a huge cash industry and the early movers in Davis look more like entrepreneurs than stereotypical consumers.

The question, of course, long term is whether we move from these high class, specialized business models to a more widespread consumer-based product where you can buy your cannabis products with your smokes and alcohol at the local 7-Eleven.

Second, I was surprised by just how uncontroversial this whole thing was.  Hey, this is Davis, which agonizes over things like setbacks on new infill developments and which is notorious for things like its noise ordinance, and this whole process went off with hardly a dissenting voice.

Yes, there was some debate over location and traffic, but it was minor.

It is true that we as a community supported Prop. 64 with 70 percent of the vote, but Davis residents have a way of supporting policies like this in concept, as long as the actual dispensaries are located in Sonoma and Mendocino and maybe Sacramento rather than F Street in Davis.  That didn’t happen here.

Perhaps one reason for that is that the key consumer of the product is likely to be the ex-hippie, baby boomer class that still dominates Davis politics.  I was a bit surprised to learn from one of the applicants that baby boomers rather than millennial college students dominate the consumer base.

Overall, I was impressed by all of the applicants.  While some question the wisdom of the council, in effect picking winners and losers, I was favorable to the point raised by Robb Davis that we are moving from a prohibited industry to a permissible industry.  Caution is paramount to a successful transition.

Mayor Robb Davis would add, “When we move from prohibition to allowable use, we have a community that, whatever their stance on cannabis is, has some anxiety.  For me, getting it right, right out of the gate, is most important.”

He said, “We wanted to make sure we were bringing the community along with us.  I can say with a lot of assurance, I think a lot of people are ready.

“When I think of my own life and what I was taught about cannabis and sort of the fear that marijuana instilled in me at a very early age, to even be sitting here, considering approving it, from a city, is quite a stretch,” he said.  “We have to bring the entire community to that point.”

With that said, there is certainly room for second guessing individual decisions.  Here I do have some critical thoughts.

At the outset here, I will say I don’t have any problem individually with any of the five chosen.  In fact, I think the council really could not go wrong here.

However, let us start with the decision, if only de facto, of having only one downtown dispensary.  I really question the fear.  I think the words of Janis Lott should ring true, in her pushing for the dispensary that would have located next to Newsbeat, when she pointed out that they do business on the order of 200-plus customers a day and no one complains.

That business, Good People Farms, received two votes, falling just shy of approval.  Meanwhile the G Street applicant, All Good Wellness, with a local and experienced ownership group, got zero votes.

I have been a believer in moving more dispensaries into the downtown.  I do not agree with those worried about parking or too much business.  I think that reasoning is absurd.

I see a huge economic benefit to moving more to the downtown.  I was moved by the presentation by Good People Farms, which showed the positive impact of such a business locally.

In their presentation they talked about the economic multiplier and halo effect. They argue that there will be a 4x multiplier effect – with every dollar generated by consumers which they spend at dispensaries, there will be another $3 of economic value injected into the local community.

They cited states’ statistics to show an eight percent increase in home property values, 15 to 30 percent increase in revenue to nearby businesses coming from dispensary clients, and higher than average tourism.

“I’m not worried about parking,” Mayor Davis said at the previous meeting in early May.  He said that “we are very inconsistent.”

On the one hand, he said, we complain, “I can’t find parking.  No one goes there because it’s all parked out.  If it’s all parked out, where’s everyone at?  We’re not just parking here and walking to Woodland.

“I’ve lived in the downtown, it is a thriving downtown,” he continued.  “Yes, it has it problems, but I’ll take our downtown over pretty much any other downtown I’ve walked in for the last decade…  The cannabis industry coming into our downtown is not going to kill it…  We can bring actual retail back into the downtown.”

So he said, “I’m very open to a downtown location.”

The other four approved businesses are farther away from other businesses, they will not draw people into the downtown.  I believe the council will regret having only one approved downtown dispensary.

I was surprised that Olive Drive got two dispensaries.  Here we have a location that already has traffic concerns.  The intersection at Olive and Richards remains problematic.  And we are going to end up closing the freeway off ramp within a few years.  I don’t have a problem with one, but two located there doesn’t make a tremendous amount of sense.

Finally, while the location of River City Phoenix was always problematic, I’m surprised it got only one vote.  Its progressive labor policies would have seemed to have been a draw in progressive Davis, but perhaps not a big enough one.

Bottom line, I don’t think the council could have gone wrong with any combination of five, but I would have preferred at least two in the downtown, I think we lose out on some multiplier effect by having a lot of businesses far away from other business centers.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. John Hobbs

    ” I think we lose out on some multiplier effect by having a lot of businesses far away from other business centers.”

    That would be reflective of my observations in Sacramento, where medical collectives have been going for a while. Coffee shops, Ramen cafes and boutique shops do well around dispensaries, it seems.

  2. Alan Miller

    At least at the start, the cannabis industry in Davis is looking like high class, upper market, professional businesses.

    Very important to keep lower class, unprofessional and homeless persons away from the cannibas business in Davis.

    1. Howard P

      Put the quote and the post in context…  consider also the historical warnings and prejudices re:  MJ… and who used it… some of those prejudices remain, so the current measure was “sold”, in part, by trying to refute the old sterotypes…

      Alan’s post, given the quote, made perfect sense to me… biting, but got the context…

      Think most over 50 got what Alan was referring (or ‘reefering’?) to…

      1. Ross Peabody

        “who used it” far exceeds  the “lower class, unprofessional and homeless persons” though.  this is why I’m confused.  First, those “folks” mentioned will likely be hard pressed to afford what’s available in the dispensaries, but seriously, those “historical warnings” are just that – historical (and untrue).  the demographic for pot is, and has been for decades, way broader than that.  the prejudices…well,  you picked the right word. This feels like a broad and totally untrue assertion, but i’m curious if it’s anything more. it smells funny, is all I’m saying

        1. Howard P

          In the 20’s 30’s 40’s, the sterotypical MJ users were black, jazz musicians, and/or the poor who couldn’t afford and/or get access to other drugs, including alcohol… MJ was “under the radar” for white, affluent folk until the ’60’s… MJ should have always have been treated like alcohol… but, it was “the gateway to hard drugs”, illegal, and pretty cheap… only had 3 puffs of MJ, maybe 40 years ago… had more problems with folk using alcohol or stiffer stuff than I ever did with MJ users…

          But stereotypes still remain… some still have no problem with many outlets for 80-100 proof alcohol in many stores (CVS, Rite-Aid, Nugget, liquor stores, etc.)… MJ, now legalized (in CA, but not on the federal level), is less of a health or societal issue than vodka, gin, etc….  IMHO…

  3. Ross Peabody

    and yet, alan hasn’t expressed a problem with “lower class, unprofessional and homeless people” hanging out at CVS or the nugget.  you’re right.  this is stereotyping 100%, but that doesn’t make it anything more than a baseless stereotype and implies something more than an issue with the city council decision or the downtown plan, which is why I asked in the first place.  I’m confused on what the assertion has to do with the article (or the council’s decision), or dispensaries in general other than a misplaced fear of “the other.”

    1. Howard P

      Guess you haven’t visited Oak tree Plaza much… for fear of being charged with tresspassing, they stay on the margins… the driveways of Covell and Pole Line, in the public r/w…

      1. Ross Peabody

        To the contrary, I’m at oak tree plaza at least every other day.  I see plenty of people shopping and hanging out in the plaza by the nugget that might fall into alan’s buckets of “low class, unprofessional” people at all hours.  Heck.  I might be one of them, depending on what the standards are.  There are a few homeless there fairly regularly, but I haven’t seen them cause problems and they most assuredly don’t seem to be affecting the business in the area.  so, yeah, still confused about the comment in terms of how the people defined shouldn’t be around the dispensaries specifically

  4. Alan Miller

    what a weird thing to say.  what do you mean?

    Guys I did something unforgiveable so do not defend me. It was 6:55 in the evening and I was ambien commenting on the Vanguard-it was friday too-i went 2 far & do not want it defended-it was egregious Indefensible. I made a mistake I wish I hadn’t but…don’t defend it please. ty  Don’t feel sorry for me, guys!!-I just want to apologize to the hundreds of people,and wonderful citizens of Davis (all liberal) and respected City Councilmemebers who lost their minds due to my stupid comment. I will be on KDRT friday.


    1. Ross Peabody

      no problem, ms. barr.  my mistake for asking what you meant, I guess.  all a joke.  nothing to see here.

      thanks, though, howard, for making an honest effort to answer on the good “roseanne’s” behalf.

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