Light Up

Three locations are proposed for dispensaries, according to a draft map: Cannery Row (pictured); downtown, with the exception of Alvarado Street; and Lighthouse Avenue.

Monterey’s three most popular tourism districts could feature the city’s first retail cannabis shops as early as 2022, if a city staff proposal earns approval from City Council.

City staff have been taking the temperature of residents, the business community and councilmembers on retail cannabis since December, when they unveiled a Roadmap to Cannabis plan. The measured approach has seen an online and postcard survey, two town halls, a City Council meeting and an information session with the city’s business and neighborhood interests.

Based on community input, city staff on Tuesday, May 4 will propose to City Council three general locations for retail cannabis.

Assistant City Manager Nat Rojanasathira says City Council’s vote will not be a final approval; rather, it’s a “check-in” seeking a green light to move forward and begin drafting local policies and a selection process for prospective retailers. Further City Council approvals would be required before issuing permits.

Although county voting records show 69.5 percent of Monterey voters supported Prop. 64 in 2016 to legalize recreational marijuana, the city has been slow to welcome commercial cannabis. January surveys show changing attitudes: 57.8 percent of 1,575 city surveyed residents somewhat or strongly support retail cannabis, with 38.8 percent somewhat or strongly opposed.

City Councilmember Dan Albert acknowledges past councils rejected retail cannabis. He says revenue woes inflicted by the pandemic mean Monterey cannot afford to say no to anything without further exploration. “There are quite a few dispensaries on the Peninsula already if you’re just serving residents,” Albert says. “The only way it can be viable here is if we tap into the tourists that come here.”

City Manager Hans Uslar told a group of neighborhood and business interests in mid-April that an economic analysis showed Monterey tourists add the equivalent of 57,000 full-time residents – roughly double the city’s population.

Rick Johnson, executive director of the Old Monterey Business Association, says cannabis is a commodity residents and travelers desire; however, the shops must reflect Monterey. “It’s important to have well-regulated, well-established, fine-looking shops in these areas,” Johnson says. “They have to become part of the town’s economic landscape in a very positive way.”

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