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December 7, 2023

Hollister council majority supports adult-use cannabis dispensaries

For the first time since local and statewide voters approved legalization of adult-use cannabis, a majority of Hollister council members Monday indicated they support adult-use cannabis dispensaries in the city.

Council members Monday heard a presentation on upcoming, recommended changes to the cannabis ordinance that included allowing adult-use dispensaries instead of just medicinal shops like in the current rules.

Council members Carol Lenoir, Honor Spencer and Rolan Resendiz all expressed support for the concept of adult-use dispensaries Monday, while there were no official decisions made because it was on the agenda as a presentation.

Councilman Marty Richman said he is leaning toward supporting the change, while he and Resendiz noted in the meeting how they wanted to see the two approved medical dispensaries in operation before making a final call. Mayor Ignacio Velazquez didn’t say much on his preference Monday, but has previously said he’s willing to support adult-use dispensaries once he sees the medical shops can function properly.

The city currently permits two medical marijuana dispensaries, Higher Level of Care at 1802 Shelton Drive and Monterey Bay Alternative Medicine at 773 San Felipe Road. Neither has opened yet, but they are both expected to do so in the coming weeks. The owner of one of the shops spoke at Monday’s meeting and said he expects to open in May.

In 2016 when California voters passed Proposition 64 – legalizing adult-use retail cannabis – 55.5 percent of local voters also said yes to the idea with an even higher percentage in Hollister. That vote came 20 years after legalization of medical cannabis.

In January, the council took up a proposal from City Manager Bill Avera to legalize adult-use shops, but a majority of the council wanted to table the item for a few months and also preferred hearing from residents again before making that decision.

While the council knows where the electorate stands, there have been some speakers on both sides of the issue who have shared views at council meetings on the topic. Just one person spoke Monday. That was cannabis opponent Steve Becerra, who has been a regular speaker on the topic.

Aside from the adult-use component, the council discussed several other recommended changes to the cannabis ordinance, such as who will be permitted to deliver adult-use cannabis and fees for nurseries.

Council members also said they wanted to give the public another opportunity to share views and scheduled a town hall meeting for 6 p.m. May 13 at Hollister City Hall.

Spencer, for one, didn’t see the need to wait and do further analysis.

“Again, I’m going to say 68 percent of this town voted to have adult use in this city,” Spencer said. “I don’t understand what the holdup is.”

Leonir had a similar take.

“I just wanted to point out this was a public meeting, a public hearing, and I don’t see anybody here but Mr. Becerra speaking on the issue,” Lenoir said. “When you only have one person come to a public hearing, what’s the town hall going to produce? I don’t like to drag things out.”

Resendiz said he’s in favor of regulated adult use.

“Again, it’s been voted on,” he said. “It’s been passed. It’s coming.”

He said he does have “some concerns before we move in that direction.” He had not heard about a public forum on the topic before it was held in March and wants better publicity for the May hearing.  

“Some people are very passionate about this issue one way or another,” he said. “I think we owe it to those people, the platform to address it and try to sway us one way or another.”

Richman said the council had yet to make a final decision.

“I’ll be very honest with you,” he said. “I am leaning toward recreational because I do think the vote does count.”