The Concord City Council debated loosening cannabis regulations to allow more testing and manufacturing operations in the city, but the future of dispensaries and retail delivery businesses within city limits remains uncertain following the council's regular meeting Tuesday night.
Current limits allow for two manufacturing and distribution licenses for medicinal-only businesses and two more for testing laboratories serving both medicinal and recreational or "adult use" markets.
The manufacturing and distribution licenses have already been awarded, and there's an application pending for a testing laboratory, meaning that local law only allows for one more permit and only for another lab.
Concord also allows licensed dispensaries to deliver cannabis, so long as their brick and mortar business is outside the city limits. That creates problems, however, for the companies making those deliveries.
Robert Spearin with www.mountainremedy.com, an Oakland-based cannabis delivery service, says roughly one-third of his sales are delivered in Concord - and establishing a location inside the city would save his staff a lot of driving while reducing the company's carbon footprint.
During public comment, he also urged the city to remove restrictions on the recreational market, as many medicinal customers prefer to acquire cannabis that way.
"Of our sales," Spearin said, "only 5 percent come from the medicinal market."
"There isn't an avenue for people to easily obtain medical recommendations like there used to be," Spearin said.
In April, the council directed city staff to look into potential revisions that could allow for delivery operations, brick-and-mortar dispensaries and an increased number of licenses for testing labs as well as manufacturing and distribution companies.
There seems to be strong support among councilmembers for increasing the number of licenses available for testing labs, which Councilmember Laura Hoffmeister compared to pharmaceutical companies, or doing away with the limit altogether.
Mayor Edi Birsan said, "Being the son of a scientist, I think we should have a testing lab everywhere. I love science."
There was also support for increasing the number of licenses for manufacturing and distribution companies, although members of the council expressed concerns about doing so too quickly.
"I think we need to be responsible in doing it incrementally and figure out what the right number is," Hoffmeister said.
While Birsan advocated for a more open approach, allowing recreational dispensaries in order to facilitate access for medicinal users and to capture the tax revenue, the fate of that business type in Concord remains uncertain.
Many of those who spoke during public comment Tuesday evening advocated for increasing the license limits, but at least three people filed written comment with City Hall urging the council not to do so, citing concerns about public safety and family values.
Jenna Stewart, coalition coordinator for the Monument Youth Drug and Alcohol Coalition, asked the council to consider the potential for adverse impacts on young adults and suggested increasing the buffer from 600 to 1000 feet between cannabis businesses and "sensitive use" locations like schools.