Soft Opening

P.G. Economic Development Commissioner Tama Olver estimates the city might collect $200,000 a year in cannabis sales tax revenue.

Less than seven weeks shy of recreational cannabis becoming legal in California on Jan. 1, 2018, the doors to cannabis businesses were slammed shut by the Pacific Grove City Council. After residents and councilmembers fretted about pot’s impact on children and its perceived potential to trigger violence, the council voted 7-0 on Nov. 15, 2017 to pass an ordinance prohibiting dispensaries or any related businesses, including deliveries from other jurisdictions.

A year later, it appeared opinions in town might be softening in the lead-up to the November 2018 election. At a candidates forum in September, five of the seven City Council candidates indicated they’d be open to at least studying the issue when asked by a resident. One, Tama Olver, said she’d like to see a dispensary open on Lighthouse Avenue.

Olver didn’t win, but she was appointed in January 2019 to the Pacific Grove Economic Development Commission, and when commission chair Mia Jarick asked if anyone would volunteer to study allowing cannabis, Olver raised her hand.

On July 11, Olver presented a report after months of research by her subcommittee that included visits to dispensaries, deep dives into state law, tax revenue statistics and more.

The commission voted 5-0 to make a recommendation to City Council – which now includes three candidates who signaled they were open to study: Jenny McAdams, Amy Tomlinson and Joe Amelio – that it change the ordinance to allow a single dispensary.

Commissioners also recommended the council ask voters in either the primary or general election next year to pass a tax of up to 10 percent on cannabis sales. Other recommendations include allowing a delivery business to open in P.G., as well as permitting firms that do cannabis research. They did not want to see any manufacturing take place. At the very minimum, commissioners said, the city should amend its current ordinance to reflect the fact that state law now allows deliveries from outside areas.

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“They did their due diligence,” says Councilmember McAdams, who serves as the council’s Economic Development Commission liaison. “It’s very factual, it’s very objective and I think that it deserves discussion.”

City Manager Ben Harvey says he expects the issue will come before the council in September. McAdams declined to comment about her specific ideas for fear she’d have to recuse herself later.

At a candidates’ forum last year, McAdams told residents, “I would not initiate it, but I would be open to a very stringent and regulated program.”

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