A college friend who works in city government elsewhere in the state messaged me following an April 26 meeting in Salinas on cannabis permits. Her comment: Your meeting was really tame compared to what went on here.

Tame is one word for it. Dull is another. And the reason it was mostly tame and dull is that it’s difficult to get public input on a process that, in my opinion, has been mostly hidden from public view.

Salinas is nearing the end of its very slow slog toward issuing permits for businesses that want to manufacture, dispense or grow cannabis within city limits. Last summer, the city anticipated those permits would be issued by last fall. That deadline came and went; now, by holding that single public meeting, which lasted about an hour, the city announced it had entered the final steps of its process and the issuance of permits is expected to happen by the end of May.

Despite the overall tone of dull, there were a few interesting moments. Here are my top three.

3. The rage against Altai Brands is strong, but unwarranted. Altai, a maker of cannabis edibles and elixirs, became the first weed business to legally operate in Salinas. Its manufacturing permit was grandfathered in, based in part on the fact that they wouldn’t be growing plants or selling their cannabis-infused candies or drinks directly to consumers. Still, that ticked a lot of people off. Ticking them off now? Altai is expanding to include extracting oils from plants, which means having plants on site.

They have permits in place and are doing everything above board; construction, in process, is expected to take another 30 days. Still, speaker after speaker lined up at Salinas City Hall to talk about marijuana and morality and smells and toxins and property values, specifically around Altai’s location on Quail Run Circle. Altai co-founder Rob Weakley says he can’t do anything to change people’s moral views of the cannabis industry, but he’s hoping to change local opinion of how Altai operates.

“A big part of this is fear of the unknown, and it’s our responsibility to educate people and do a better job telling people about systems and processes,” Weakley says. To that end, he’s planning to hold open houses, at a location and time to be determined, so people can come, ask questions and get educated about what the company is doing.

2. Most applicants are clustered around a few locations. Four applicants are eyeing locations along a two-block stretch of Work Street: two at 514 Work St., one at 590 Work St., and one at 641 Work St. Other proposed locations are nearby at 343 Rianda St., 1610 Moffett St., 1156 Abbott St. and 1156 Harkins St. Clustering makes sense – it’s easier to share security and easier for police to patrol the area. And in these industrial areas, most people won’t notice a difference.

1. Another location is planned for 825 W. Market St., and that’s notable for a few reasons. Ricky Cabrera, a contractor, Rotarian and board member-at-large of the Salinas Valley Leadership Group, has applied to grow and dispense at that location, in an industrial area. Cabrera invoked the name of retired Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillin when he spoke at the April 26 meeting about his interest in keeping his operation safe and legal. McMillin confirms he has spoken with Cabrera about consulting on security issues, but has no agreement in place.

The same day of the meeting, city code enforcement officers found a large (roughly 9,000 square feet) unpermitted grow at 825 W. Market St. The city issued a stop-work permit, because the warehouse space had been subdivided without permits and PG&E power diverted, and police were summoned. The more than 1,000 plants they found, along with 16 pounds of processed and bagged weed, were left in place. SPD had submitted a warrant request and the subtenant of the building faces misdemeanor charges.

Meanwhile, the building’s owner may face a PG&E bill estimated at $250,000. The owner is a now-defunct LLC, with Phillip Trapin of Carmel listed as the registered agent, according to property records. The sublessee is said to be the owner of a local auto body shop.

Cabrera, meanwhile, says he has no lease in place there, but has been promised one should the permit be granted.

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