Pacific Grove is not getting a retail cannabis store anytime soon. That’s the result after a new P.G. City Council last night reversed a decision made in September by the former council to bring one licensed store to the small town.
The council voted 5-2 in favor of rescinding the ordinance—approved by the former council in September before the election—that includes retail sales. The two "no" votes came from Nick Smith and Amy Tomlinson dissenting. Both had voted in favor of the September ordinance to allow retail sales.
That ordinance was approved by a narrow margin of 4-3. Two events since then influenced the new outcome—a referendum petition against retail cannabis signed by over 1,000 residents and a new council makeup after the November election. Mayor Bill Peake brought forth the new ordinance in the wake of the referendum.
The referendum did not pass according to Monterey County Elections officials, but the fact that its failure was only by three votes influenced the council's deliberations on Wednesday night. Several residents spoke out against the original ordinance, calling it seriously flawed.
Several councilmembers agreed with the residents' assessment and said they thought the issue should go to voters in the November General Election in 2022. New Councilmember Luke Coletti was one, calling it "a disservice to community to rush" into retail sales without engaging the community first.
Also on that night's agenda was a request by City Manager Ben Harvey to seat two of its members to a cannabis license selection committee. The five-member committee also includes Harvey, P.G. Police Chief Cathy Madalone and Community Development Director Anastazia Aziz.
When it came time to decide the selection committee members, the council instead voted to continue the matter until March 3, 2021, after the new ordinance takes effect. Harvey says the council’s decision to rescind the original ordinance makes the committee moot.
“My course of action will be nothing,” says Harvey today. “With that type of action there’s no way I’m going to thwart their intent by convening the selection committee.”
Harvey had started the process in late September for selecting a company in hopes of awarding a license by November. Five companies followed all the steps laid out in the rules and paid $9,000 in fees to the city. Those companies are: Destoney Inc. (doing business as Big Sur Cannabotanicals); the Apothecarium Dispensary; Raaja Enterprise (doing business as Cannabis 101 Dispensary); NUG/Enea Wellness PG; PG Holistic Health.
In its decision to rescind retail cannabis the council also directed Harvey to begin engagement with the community to gauge interest in retail cannabis—similar to a recent move by the city of Monterey—but Harvey says he’s going to wait until at least after the new ordinance takes effect.
“Right now it would elicit additional confusion,” Harvey says. He will go back to council at a later date for more specifics in the type of engagement they want.
One of the applicants for a P.G. cannabis lease said in a written statement that he's ready to offer the city assistance.
"If Pacific Grove wishes to go back to the drawing board on having a dispensary in town, we are happy to offer any guidance and our expertise in helping them address any issues and concerns," said Aram Stoney of Big Sur Cannabotanicals, located in unincorporated Carmel.