Yountville could become Napa County’s second town to host the legal sale of marijuana products – if a majority of its voters are in favor Nov. 3.
The arrival of cannabis retailing in the resort town of fewer than 3,000 residents depends on passage of Measure T, which would allow the Town Council to authorize one such business to sell and deliver cannabis products outside of residential areas, as well as allow its consumption on-site. The initiative could make Yountville the county’s first city to open itself to adult-use sales that do not require a doctor’s recommendation.
A majority vote is required for Yountville to join Napa, which became the county’s first city to authorize marijuana outlets and now hosts at least three retailers, all of which require customers to show a card demonstrating medical need.
Under Measure T, Yountville would license only one cannabis seller within town limits and would collect a 3% tax on its gross sales, estimated to raise $30,000 to $100,000 annually.
The ordinance includes restrictions on the location of a cannabis-selling business, including a ban on sites in or next to residential zones except when they abut the backyard of a private home. Sellers also must be at least 300 feet away from houses of worship, community spaces and schools, and may not sell or serve alcohol on the same premises.
Other terms would include a prohibition on making products visible from outside the store, as well as filing plans for security, inventory control and odor abatement. Applicants also would have to disclose any other cannabis-related businesses they own or run.
At an Oct. 7 online forum hosted by the Yountville Chamber of Commerce to air opinions for and against Measure T, proponent Larry Kamer urged voters to make their decision based on the medical needs of a diverse range of patients – including more than 700 mainly older residents of the state-operated Veterans Home without ready local access to legal cannabis products.
“I believe much of the opposition I have heard to Measure T has been based on fear, based on stereotypes of the kinds of people who use cannabis,” he said during the forum, which the chamber conducted as a Zoom videoconference. “Cannabis relieves suffering across multiple demographics.”
However, opponent Andrew Hoxsey questioned how welcoming a cannabis outlet in such a tourism-focused town would be to veterans or other locals.
“No matter how the proponents of this measure spin it, this is going to be a high-end smoking lounge,” he declared. “It will be expensive, it will be a reservation to a bunker-like facility, greeted by an armed guard. No matter how you argue it, that will not be a very accommodating place for the Veterans Home residents you speak of.”
The four candidates for two Yountville Town Council seats – incumbents Margie Mohler and Jeffrey Durham, and challengers Eric Knight and Scott Owens – also were invited to weigh in on Measure T. Only Durham spoke in its support, calling a brick-and-mortar business the only option for veterans, tenants and other residents.
“Not all Yountvillians have access to cannabis; not all Yountvillians are allowed to grow six plants or get delivery,” he said.
Knight recommended holding off on legalizing local sales while awaiting the evolution of state and especially federal regulation, which continues to classify cannabis as an illegal drug of abuse. Mohler, a pharmaceutical scientist, described cannabis product testing as lacking compared to the evaluation of other drugs, while Owens worried that the ordinance’s requirement to keep marijuana products out of exterior view would harm the character of Yountville’s downtown business district.
“I’m hearing from many people that this ordinance is not right for Yountville at this time, and perhaps the measure was rolled out before it was fully baked,” said Owens of his stance against Measure T. “As a councilmember, it will be my responsibility to respond to the voice of the people. If this passes, we will need to proceed with the option that will do the least harm.”
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You can reach Howard Yune at 530-763-2266 or [email protected]
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