One more commercial dispensary will be making its way to Cloverdale.
The first item on the May 22 Cloverdale City Council meeting agenda was a public hearing regarding whether the council wanted to issue dispensary permits for two dispensaries that have had permit applications in limbo for over a year. In the end, the council voted (3-1) to award a dispensary permit to Cloverdale Wellness (formerly California Wellness), and voted against (2-2) awarding a permit to Quonset Botanicals.
When deciding to award the permit to Cloverdale Wellness, Mayor Melanie Bagby, Vice Mayor Gus Wolter and Councilmember Jason Turner were in favor; Councilmember Marta Cruz voted against.
The council voted not to award a permit to Quonset Botanicals, tying 2-2, with Wolter and Turner voting in favor and Bagby and Cruz voting against. Councilmember Mary Ann Brigham recused herself prior to the agenda item, since she is one of the permit applicants.
Prior to the council’s discussion regarding whether or not to issue permits to either applicant, the floor was open to public comment. One person, Carolyn Jansen, expressed support of Quonset Botanicals, which would have been situated next door to her.
“They have always kept me informed and let me know what’s going on … the place has never looked more beautiful than it does now and I’ve been there 30-something years,” she said. “I’m very much in favor of them getting to get their business going.”
Another Cloverdale resident, Steve Nurse, expressed his concern regarding the potential of approved dispensaries having a vibrant physical appearance, such as bright lights. Another concern of his, Nurse said, is Cloverdale being known for its high cannabis presence.
“The future of this town is not in cannabis; the future of this town is in tourism,” he said. “We need to be putting efforts in to ensure that we attract tourists to this town where they’re going to be spending big bucks and help develop this town.”
Cloverdale Unified School District Trustee Eric Higginbothom also spoke during the meeting, restating a resolution that the school board adopted last year regarding the board’s suggested dispensary setback amounts.
When it came down to questions asked of the applicants by the council, the bulk of the questions directed toward Quonset centered around the appearance of the building, since the current property sits at the head of Cloverdale’s downtown.
Right now, the corner of the property houses multiple sculptures from the Cloverdale Sculpture Trail, and applicant Ipolani Bovee indicated that Quonset would continue to house sculptures or art on the corner property, as well as continue their efforts to beautify the space.
“I just want to compliment you, the property’s looking better already,” Wolter said. “That’s a very difficult property to build things on … and I can’t wait to see that paint job you’re going to put on that old mental building — it’s going to look good.”
Cruz asked numerous clarifying questions to both dispensary applicants regarding how each dispensary will tackle newer cannabis laws — namely related to distribution and the delivery of product to the dispensaries.
Dispensary regulations deem that products need to be delivered to the dispensary fully packaged, and can’t be packaged or labeled by its retailer.
Decisions, decisions, decisions
When it came time for the council members to deliberate, Wolter spoke first, saying he didn’t have anything to discuss.
“We’ve been chewing on this long enough, I pretty much think I have my arms around it,” he said.
Turner somewhat echoed Wolter’s statement, referencing the rift that cannabis has torn through the city.
“This has been a very, very challenging topic,” Turner said. “The divide over this topic comes as close as my home. There are people in my own home that don’t agree with the direction, people in my family that don’t agree with each other on the direction.”
Turner continued, “I do take some comfort that, in a year, we will be able to review these permits. I want the people here tonight as applicants to just really understand — this is a passionate community … They’re going to pay attention, so please stick to the word that you put out, stick to the philosophy that you’re winning people over with … with that being said, I can’t find a reason to tell one or the other ‘no.’”
While both Turner and Wolter mentioned hearing cannabis-positive feedback from community members, Cruz said that she is hesitant to vote in favor of dispensaries, given the more negative feedback that she’s heard.
“Jason and I came into this game at the very end, even though we had resided and experienced the divide that happened in this town over cannabis,” Cruz said. “Even though 58% of people wanted a cannabis business, I’m not certain the 58% stands for cannabis today — or at least for three cannabis dispensaries here in town … I don’t feel comfortable voting for additional cannabis dispensaries here in Cloverdale.”
“I’m still concerned with the placement at a major entry to our community,” Bagby said, referring to the proposed location of Quonset Botanicals. “I was against it because I don’t believe that kind of use belongs in our transit-oriented development near our train station. I think that that use, if it’s approved, is going to get grandfathered in and it’s going to be there — and that property, though it has development challenges, is not going to go to its best use for this community.”
Following the 2-2 vote for Quonset, Wolter expanded on his decision.
“I truly believe this is a good location for this dispensary .... and I really would like to see this approved, I do not want to see anymore divide in the community,” Wolter said of his decision to vote in favor of awarding them a permit.
Wolter then asked the city attorney when the permit can be brought back again for a vote, suggesting that he believed Cruz may change her mind.
While the folks at Cloverdale Wellness have put forth a plan that focuses on the medical side of cannabis, Cloverdale Wellness treasurer and secretary Daniel Frankston said that the business will also be providing recreational cannabis as well.
“Our emphasis will be on doing a delivery service for medicinal cannabis, but there has been a lot of input that we have received from the community — a desire to also have recreational cannabis available — and given that that wouldn’t interfere with our model to have really a clinical, therapeutic, almost a doctor’s office environment for a dispensary, we thought it would be prudent to add that as well.”
Frankston clarified that the plan would be to deliver recreational cannabis, but still maintain Cloverdale Wellness’ physical location as medical-only, appointment-based operation.
“In order to come into our dispensary, you would need to have a doctor’s recommendation and a license to purchase medical marijuana,” he said.
Once up and running, the dispensary will be located at 124 S. Cloverdale Blvd. on the second floor.
“Daniel and I are honored and grateful for being permitted an opportunity to serve the community of Cloverdale,” said Eleanor Gomez, Cloverdale Wellness general manager in a statement to the Reveille. “We look forward to becoming a part of this wonderful town and to sharing our vision of wellness."
This article has been edited to reflect the correct address of Cloverdale Wellness.