Sunday Commentary: Davis is Forward Thinking… On Cannabis

Rob Read from F Street Dispensary presents on Wednesday. They will be the first dispensary in Yolo County opening their doors, which will be later this month.

While the voters of the city of Davis overwhelmingly supported the legalization of recreational cannabis, I must admit I was skeptical that it would lead to commercial dispensaries.  While over 70 percent of the voters supported Proposition 64, it is also true that, in 1996, a heavy majority of voters in Davis supported Proposition 215.  And yet, the city of Davis never allowed medical marijuana dispensaries to come to our community.

My anticipation then was that, while cannabis would be legal, once specific proposals came forward in Davis, we would get bogged down in our usual parochial disputes.  Davis is great about progressivism from afar and not so good when it comes to our own at times elite and guarded community.

So I was pleasantly surprised to see that times really are changing.  Not only have we moved forward on recreational cannabis to the point where the first dispensary is set to open later this month, but we have done so in a thoughtful and progressive way and done so with very little, if any, dissent.

We saw a few people speak out early in the process against allowing recreational dispensaries.  And we saw relatively few land-use based objections to the specific proposals.

And so, while we have often criticized Davis for allowing other communities to lead the way in a number of innovations, the Vanguard is extremely critical that we have lost our great momentum on economic development.  When it comes to legal cannabis, the community and leadership of the council should be commended.

We are, in fact, way ahead of the rest of the county on this issue.

At this month’s Chamber luncheon, one of the presenters pointed out that, while times are changing, many of the communities are lagging far behind in terms of the issue of legal cannabis.

Dino Takos, representing Kind Farma, pointed out, “Only one out of seven cities in California are allowing cannabis stores to operate.  So six out of seven cities in California are graciously supporting the black market.”

On Wednesday, sitting next to me at the table were a few representatives from the Woodland Daily Democrat – they live in a community that has not chosen to allow legal cannabis dispensaries.  For one of the few times, they marveled at the forward thinking of Davis on this issue.

Indeed, for all of our complaints – and legitimately so – that Davis has allowed sales tax leakage and TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax) tax leakage, and failed to take advantage of our prime position as a host city for a UC, one bandwagon we have jumped onto early but in a thoughtful and measured way has been legal cannabis.

We are not just getting a bunch of low level head shops.  Instead, we are getting high class establishments that will complement our community.

It was impressive to listen to the range of presenters last spring who applied for conditional use permits.  These were primarily (young) professionals.  People who would seem more at home in business school or an elite MBA program – rather than some skater punk rolling out of his van, a cloud of smoke, smacking his head with his shoe, saying, “That was skull.  I’m so wasted.”  (Thanks to Sean Penn’s Jeff Spicoli for the stereotype).

Listening on Wednesday, these are individuals who respect this community and seek to be a part of it, contributing to our rich history and strong commitment to civic engagement.

Leading the way here has been the Davis Chamber, which not only hosted a talk with four of the five approved dispensaries, but was an early supporter of the concept.

What the Chamber recognizes that I think the council and others do as well is the tremendous amount of money flowing into communities due to legal cannabis.

Davis, as an early provider, has huge advantages.  Later this month, the F Street Dispensary is reportedly set to open their doors.  What that means is that the first legal cannabis people can purchase in Yolo County will be here in Davis.

Chamber Board Member Michael Faust noted that when the Kana Company presented to the council, they believed that they would inject $450,000 annually into the Davis economy, just by themselves.

“The Good People’s Farm pointed out that they expected there would be a four times multiplier effect, so basically for every dollar spent on the new dispensary, there would be an additional three dollars spent in the city of Davis,” he explained.  “For that reason the Davis Chamber – as well as other reasons – supported the ordinance that passed.”

It is not often that these pages offer credit rather than criticism, but credit is due here.

First, the Davis City Council deserves credit here.  They expedited this process but did so in a thoughtful and measured way that will likely result in high quality and classy establishments.  We are not looking at head shops, we are looking at establishments that will reflect the values of this community.

Second, the Davis Chamber could have opposed this measure.  The Davis Chamber could have simply not gotten involved.  By getting in front of this issue, supporting it early and now backing that up by providing a platform, they have shown a level of leadership that is badly needed.

These businesses now have a chance to be welcomed partners in this community, and the business community has done its part to help bring in badly needed revenue by welcoming the dispensaries into the business community with open arms.

Finally, I will add that this process has shown the growth of this community.  I have pointed this out in other areas as well.  In 2006, when the Vanguard started, we lamented the dark underbelly of the otherwise progressive community that we live in.

Slowly but surely that dark cloud is lifting.

We are no longer just content to talk the talk.  We are starting to walk that walk as well.

As this community looks to new revenue sources, here is potentially a big one – and thanks to the foresight of many, we are jumping ahead of our competition in this county and about to reap the rewards.

—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. Keith O

    So explain to the rest of us why you are so happy to have pot dispenseries in Davis?

    How does allowing these dispenseries have anything to do with “the dark underbelly” and lifting “the dark cloud” in Davis?


    1. David Greenwald

      “So explain to the rest of us why you are so happy to have pot dispenseries in Davis?”

      Huge amount of revenue.

      “How does allowing these dispenseries have anything to do with “the dark underbelly” and lifting “the dark cloud” in Davis?”

      I thought I explained this in the piece – the disconnect between values and action.

        1. David Greenwald

          Very basic point – 70 to 75 percent of Davis voters supported Prop 64. In 1996, a similar percent of Davis voters supported Prop 215. But the city refused to allow dispensaries for medical marijuana. So that they were willing to support medical marijuana, but not here. This time, the voters were willing to vote for the bill and support it here.

        2. Keith O

          But this is more than just medical marijuana, right?

          So you considered it a dark underbelly to vote for marijuana but not to allow pot stores in Davis?

          Do you think you might be over sensationalizing that a little bit?

          1. David Greenwald

            No I consider the disconnect between expressed values and local policy to be one of the manifestations of the phenomenon.

    2. Ken A

      I would be interested in hearing if Keith feels that we should have kept pot illegal.

      I have not smoked pot since college (and realize today that I would have probably gone to a better college if I spent less time in Jr. High and High School smoking pot and going to Grateful Dead shows and “Days on the Green”) and I hope my kids don’t smoke much (of anything).  With that said I know that LOTS of people smoke pot and like the old 55mph speed limit it is painful to have a law that so many people ignore.  Like David I’m happy to have pot smoking boomers drive in to Davis from Dixon and Woodland to give us tax money.  As far as the “dark underbelly” I don’t know the people running the new Davis business but I am guessing that they are less sketchy (and use less meth) than many of the “dealers” that drive back and forth between the “Emerald Triangle” and the Bay Area and are probably less likely to rob (or stab) a guy that wants a little pot for the Boz Scaggs concert next week…

      1. David Greenwald

        Ken – what’s interesting is that they talked about the fact that more and more people don’t want to “smoke” it anyway. The variety of delivery systems is fascinating.

  2. Jeff M

    A little party-time pot now and then isn’t a problem.  Pot for health reasons isn’t a problem.  Like all substances that alter the mind, pot has a risk of negative habit forming and destructive addiction.  And young people smoking pot is absolutely a problem… mostly because of the previous and the fact that their brains are still developing and that development will be negatively impacted by pot consumption (may explain their love of Bernie Sanders).

    It is interesting to me how there is an ideological flip related to pot compared to cigarettes.  Those with more social liberal leanings tend to support legalization, those with more social conservative leavings think it should remain illegal.  But liberals want more restrictions on cigarettes and fewer restrictions on pot, while conservatives tend to want the opposite.  This all seems tribal rather than logical.

    However, now that the legal pot cat is out of the bag and is not going back, our discussion should be all about preventing young people from access, and everyone from over-consumption.  Frankly, with respect to adults, unless it is consumed for a medical reasons, anyone consuming it outside of party-time deserves some private and public scorn.

    1. Don Shor

      I don’t think it should be illegal. I think it has benefits for some people and is fine for some recreational purposes. But I am concerned that we don’t seem to be acknowledging that it can be a real problem for some people, and that daily use is not good for most people.

      1. Joseph Wisgirda

        I think you should speak for yourself and let others do the same.

        I think you should worry more about alcohol and the problems that it causes.

        If you feel the need to get involved with other people’s personal matters, of course …

    2. Joseph Wisgirda

      Scorn. Like all smokers should wear a Scarlet Letter if they choose to imbibe in public?

      Maybe we would be more civilized say in bringing back the stocks and the pillory for such offenders. A place where, say, young families can come and hurl rotten vegetables and fruit, a place for the young ones can learn some good old traditional values and the fate that awaits lowlife Scofflaw Vipers!!

      Bully, I say, Bully!

  3. Jim Hoch

    “It is not often that these pages offer credit rather than criticism”

    Unless they advertise. I am old enough to remember when “alternative press” was supported by prostitution. Now they profit off of stoners. Looking into my crystal ball I see regular MJ ads on the vanguard.

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