During the May 22 Antioch City Council meeting, by way of a 3-2 vote, the City has opened the door to potentially allowing marijuana businesses into two parts of the City.
After a lengthy discussion, the Council approved two overlay maps where businesses could apply for a conditional use permit which the council would have to approve. The two areas are in Verne Roberts Circle near Costco. The other is along Wilbur between A Street to the Antioch Bridge.
The council did not take up what types of marijuana business would be allowed from dispensary to manufacturing, that conversation will come at a future meeting, the action simply approved the areas where businesses could potentially operate.
Antioch Police Chief Tammany Brooks expressed concerns saying the police department has spoken to the planning commission a number of times.
“From a law enforcement standpoint, we have a difficult time, especially on the retail side of the cannabis business,” said Brooks. “That is what we deal with on a regular basis and in illegal context… we do see the negative consequences of marijuana and other drugs and so from a police department standpoint we see this as a taxing business on our resources.”
Brooks highlighted how Antioch has the lowest per capita police department staffing.
“I struggled to provide adequate law enforcement services to our community with the staffing that I have and if we bring businesses in that could potentially increase violent crime. And we’re talking about an all cash business that has historically been illegal in the past,” explained Brooks. “We have pizza delivery drivers who were robbed for a pizza and a small amount of cash. You bring someone out there with a large amount of cannabis and potentially a large amount of money that just could increase their likelihood of becoming a victim of a robbery. And the same goes for dispensary’s as well. So those are some of the concerns that we have.”
Councilmember Lori Ogorchock came out against this.
“It’s funny because everybody that spoke tonight, there’s not been one person in favor of this,” said Ogorchock. “I’ve been here for now almost four years and we’ve always seen or most times seeing somebody pro and against, but this time it’s definitely against this. There has been nobody for the pro side of this.”
“I’m not for these maps at all because I don’t want it here,” said Ogorchock. “Putting something over by Verne Robert Circle is just, that just can’t happen. That’s, that’s definitely not a good area. And then going all the way in on Wilbur Avenue. You’ve got a soccer field, baseball park out there, the children out there all the time. So that’s definitely not a good area. There’s really not a good area to be honest.”
Ogorchock suggested if they go ahead with maps, they selected the two lot over by LMC that the City owns but she still would not vote for it.
“I understand that people say that we voted for it. People in Antioch did vote for it. I think it was 64 percent, but we as to city council still can say no to this. We can still be the leaders that we should be and still say no. What’s good for our city,” said Ogorchock. “That’s my thought. Um, and that we should be the only city…. we could be the city out of all the cities to say no. We don’t have to say yes. We can be the one that says no, not in our town.”
Councilman Tony Tiscareno explained he believed in the concept of medical marijuana believes that the majority of California is in the same, same mindset.
“I have always stated personally, I don’t condone it. I don’t like it. I don’t want it near me, but I can’t speak for Tony Tiscareno, I speak for a majority of voters that voted for this process.” Explained Tiscareno who also said they may not have had advocates tonight, but have had them throughout the workshops.
Tiscareno stated he was open to medical marijuana in certain parts of the city
“I am open minded to medical and certain areas in Antioch and reason why I’m opening mine is because we have a lot of residents in the city of Antioch Go to other cities to purchase and bring it back home. So if that’s a revenue source that’s missing,” said Tiscareno. “You’re talking about somebody paying their money to another city in those tax dollars are going to that city and bring it back to the city of Antioch and they’re gonna and you’re gonna smell it here anyway, because, you know the state law legalizing marijuana in California, theoretically every single household can grow with six plants if they really wanted to. So it’s here and it’s not going to go away. So if we have some kind of control, and that’s what we’re talking about today is how we control what we want to do in the city of Antioch, whether we let it just go off and go wild or we have some kind of regulation.”
Mayo Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe made the argument that you could tie a similar issue of crime to banks and any business when compared to marijuana.
Mayor Sean Wright stated that when this first came out, he agreed with Ogorchock but went and did his research by visiting facilities.
“I looked at it and then came to find out that this whole thing about medical versus adult use is just a farce,” said Wright as he explained they took it from one pile to another. “So, I came to realize that this whole argument that will just allow medical is, is to make people feel good that the actual drug you’re taking is the same one way or the other. There are doctors that will give anybody a medical marijuana card. So, if you’re gonna legalize it, legalize it.”
Wright further highlighted problems in the community such as grow houses where he hoped it would stay illegal while adding he hopes that with legalization further cultivation in rentals goes down.
“The black market is not going to be dented, you cannot compete, compete in illegal a market with a black market,” said Wright. “There are still going to be a black market, a legalizing it and selling it as going to give some people that don’t want to buy and the black market and opportunity to go somewhere where they can buy it without going to the black market. The black market will still be there. You cannot go and require all of the extra things that were required were legalized market. And some of them, the black market price.”
Wright highlighted how the economic commission did a wonderful job, even though many of them do not support marijuana, saying their suggestion was that if we were going to allow anything that would be lab testing and manufacturing, that we would stay away from the retail market.
“I sat down with our chief of police and asked, and he said very strongly, he suggested that we stay away from the retail market. Do you need a delivery sales? He said that from the standpoint of we don’t have our full cops, we don’t have 104 cops that we want and we’re trying to get there, but even at 104, our per capita cost basis is low and adding that stress to them at this time I think is unfair,” said Wright. “So based on based on those things, if we were to have an overlay district that had allowed for laboratory and manufacturing. I think there are some scientific jobs that we need in our community. There are some opportunities that would be without allowing for cultivation, retail or delivery, and that’s kind of where I I’m falling is at that point.
Ogorchock again stated her position she was against this and they could still say no before the deadline hits and the state would takeover.
“I’ve got a stance and I feel strongly about my stance. My stance is a no, I’ve got. I’ve been educated on this. I’ve done the homework and I don’t. I don’t take it personally,” said Ogorchock explaining how its not just one home that will smell it or feel the effects, but entire neighborhoods from drift smoke. “It’s going to happen in our backyards, not just your backyard, but the five of us backyard. So I’m fighting for our backyards. We don’t have to have it here. We don’t have to. We can say no, we’re the polysorbate policymakers. We still have the right to say no, not in our town”
Thorpe explained he had a very strict view on marijuana and did not vote for Prop 64 but through this process he came to learn that there is no science or research that connects marijuana as a gateway drug.
“I am still torn,” said Thorpe. “So I’m kind of at the pleasure of the council and in kind of coming up with a consensus as to which direction we want to go.”
Tiscareno explained he understands the impact but that its already in the city with people able to grow 6-plants and people can smell it depending on where people choose to smoke it on their property.
“It’s something that we have to deal with on a day to day basis. And that’s not just me, it’s everybody,” said Tiscareno. “So I’m talking apples and oranges in that respect because we’re looking at revenue sources and businesses. I think all of us are kind of open minded to that testing labs or whatever the case may be in certain designated areas. You might as well utilize what you can because of something that’s already been legalized and we have an opportunity to regulate that. The only reason why I’ve been an advocate for medical marijuana dispensaries, yeah, it’s easier to get a medical card, but there are folks that are in dire need that live by the fact that they feel a lot better than using the oils or medical marijuana more so than opioids.”
Tiscareno highlighted how by having dispensary’s in certain parts of the city it could bring revenue to Antioch.
City staff stated this was a “maybe ordinance” and that “maybe you could operate a business in Antioch because it’s a use permit from the City Council—which gives people the opportunity to apply and nobody’s guaranteed a permit.
Ebbs explained,” So this gives someone the ability to apply for their cannabis business for a use permit in the city council can take them one at a time. Nobody’s guaranteed anything. We may never get a, an application for a dispensary. We may never get one for a lab, but if we do, you’ll be in a position to look at that so that there’s not the pressure tonight to figure out of all the half dozen different types of cannabis businesses which are right, which are wrong. What we’d really like to see is something on the books by July 31st deadline.”
Mayor Wright explained he understood that, but once its open and retail is apart of that they will get a dispensary and they have an opportunity to set the directions tonight. He was looking to prohibit the retail.
Ebbs continued saying the City could be like Pittsburg and use the word “prohibit” when it comes to retail but allow all other uses.
Both Thorpe and Tiscareno stated they wanted to focus on the overlap maps tonight then at a future meeting figure out what they would approve or not approve before they prohibit anything.
Wright said what he was willing to do was go over the overlay tonight and have retail cannabis retail prohibited but that was only his opinion. Ogorchock agreed asking them to prohibit cannabis retail.
Overview of council stances:
- Wright – okay with laboratory and manufacturing but prohibit retail.
- Ogorchock – against all forms, wants it prohibited
- Tiscareno – willing to go with medical marijuana retail
- Wilson – agrees with medical and testing marijuana, stops short on retail due to lack of information.
- Thorpe – didn’t give an opinion other than they were making decisions based on hypothetical and not information.
The council then went back to the map overlays.
Ogorchock stated that the overlay including Costco should be “flat out off the table” because of the Costco, car dealerships and possibly a care center for the homeless saying she didn’t believe that was an appropriate area.
Tiscareno stated he that the Costco area was already a business park with many different kinds of businesses while his preference was not to place a dispensary near a school or church and somewhere it could be discreet.
Ebbs said they already have a state law where they have to be 600 feet from a school where you extended that to be school city park and residential zone..
Ogorchock made a motion to say “no” to everything which did not get a second.
Tiscareno then made a motion to approve the overlay map (as is) with no modifications.
Ogorchock asked Tiscareno to change his motion to remove the overlap map that included Verne Roberts which Tiscareno declined.
The motion passed 3-2 with Thorpe, Tiscareno and Wilson supporting with Wright and Ogorchock dissenting.