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Cannabis Moratorium Debated by Planning Commission

At a meeting on April 24, Planning Commissioners voted to recommend that City Council extend the moratorium on cannabis dispensaries in Santa Clara until June 2020. Because the state’s legalization of recreational cannabis also gives municipalities a high degree of local control over commercial cannabis, the City has a multi-department team consisting of staff from Police, Fire, City Attorney’s Office, Planning and Finance to develop a framework for legislation regulating the industry.

Staff recommended to Commissioners that, although the regulatory framework will likely come to fruition before June 2020, there are many steps in the process and the extension will allow adequate time. Commissioners debated on whether the extension would result in lost revenue from taxes on cannabis products as well as further delay the establishment of the industry in Santa Clara, but ultimately most decided that the extension on the moratorium was necessary to establish proper regulatory standards.

Sean Kali-rai, president of the Silicon Valley Cannabis Alliance, spoke at the meeting and informed commissioners about Assembly Bill 1356 that’s currently working its way through various legislative committees. He cautioned that if the bill ultimately passes, municipalities that have banned commercial cannabis could end up losing local land use control and end up with more dispensaries than would otherwise have been the case. City staff advised commissioners that the bill is targeted at cities with outright bans, not moratoriums.


“This bill was really designed to push city councils — where they have passed Prop 64 with over 50 percent majority — to say you have to move forward or the state is going to do it for you,” Kali-rai said.


Live Music 

The topic of live music prohibitions was revisited from last meeting as another Alcoholic Beverage Control use permit was on the table for an AC Marriott located at 2950 Lakeside Drive. The permit was approved by the Commission and a condition prohibiting live music unless it is incidental to the primary use of the venue was dropped.

Later in the meeting Commission Chair Sudhanshu Jain reignited discussion calling for a change in zoning code to make live music more accessible in the City. Gloria Sciara, Development Review Officer, explained that there’s actually a specific live music permit that venues have to apply for that costs nearly $10,000 and would cover ongoing entertainment events. None of the current members of the Planning Commission had ever experienced reviewing an application for such a permit.

The permit is required as a section of the zoning code that currently states, “…neighborhood bar and/or restaurant which serves or sells alcoholic beverages with an area of less than one thousand five hundred (1,500) square feet (including any outdoor seating), dancing or live entertainment shall not be permitted.”

City staff added that the zoning code update currently underway may help make it easier for venues to have music while still allowing the Police Department and other departments to address any criminal or nuisance issues that may arise.


Other Business 

Commissioner Shawn Williams’ resignation will be accepted by City Council on May 7 and Council will subsequently interview three applicants and make a decision to fill the one remaining open seat on the Planning Commission.

The May 8 meeting has been cancelled and Commissioners are scheduled to meet again on May 22.


1 Comment
  1. ABecker 5 years ago

    The city of Santa Clara has voted twice for Cannabis, once statewide then once by the city. The people and the majority has spoken twice. I wish council will see this reflection as they won their elections with a majority of the vote, therefore the people have spoken. So when it comes to that on one hand, and then this on the other, why don’t council recognize the will of the people?

    Yes there are concerns with it, but Santa Clara has had 4 years to prepare for this. San Jose continues to make money off of it while Mountain View is looking to steal away some business and revenue. I wish instead of speaking of fear we would actually look at the facts.

    Santa Clara can operate cannabis differently than other cities. More professional, more clean, efficient, and neighborhood and community friendly. We can operate it with the strictest rules or lowest tax rate to bring in the business. Santa Clara can have 4-6 dispensaries that would be beneficial in revenue.

    What I don’t understand is why spend tax money for a ballot measure in 2018 for the city to only delay it again? Just because the will of a governing body disagrees with the electorate or a small minority disagrees with the electorate (those who actually showed up to the meeting were against it).

    Sugar, Caffeine, Nicotine, Alcohol, Heroin, etc are all more addictive and dangerous than cannabis, and you can look up those comparisons yourself.

    The Law is the Law, and if Santa Clara wants to ban it, then they violate the will of the people because the fear of the minority.

    The biggest issue i Had was Measure M in 2018 that put the money revenue into the general fund instead of designating the money for good causes. Putting that money in the general fund is dangerous and leaves it like a blank check for political pet projects. If the money went directly to police and fire like the ballot measure tries to covey in its message that be great, but the dirty secret is it is slipped into the general fund. Dangerous.

    I disagreed with that, voted “No” when i supported the cannabis industry in Santa Clara. Remember it was the general fund issue that got me to vote No.

    This is why i was the lone vote on Planning Commission (4-1-1) against the delay till June 2020 because we should have had a plan in the pipeline from 2016 after the statewide vote knowing it was coming to Santa Clara sooner or later. Once again Santa Clara is behind the curve on being progressive and in the modern century. We already have legal cannabis delivered to residents in the city when staff and city officials think it is not happening. It is. Do you know who gets the revenue from those sales? SAN JOSE!

    Don’t get me wrong, I hear those residents and council member complaints, but at same time, this is a generational issue and fear of change. Anyone under the age of a baby boomer overwhelming supports this. But the law is the law, and bans don’t solve anything it only increases a black market.

    This is not about people getting high, it’s also about getting people access to alternative medicines. My father when going through chemo and dying from liver cancer turned to cannabis for pain and to induce an appetite that he lacked.

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