Cannabis Integration Moves Forward In Redwood City


The city council has cleared the way for the next phase in the development of businesses that will grow or deliver cannabis within city limits, approving a package of local regulations that in some areas are stricter than state standards.

The plan consists of zoning approvals and regulation of cannabis delivery services and nurseries, both without walk-ins, within Redwood City. It will regulate deliveries from outside the city. The council also settled on the requirements for a Cannabis Business Permit, which cannabis businesses will be required to obtain.

In a series of rules that depart from state standards, indoor nurseries will not be allowed to grow cannabis plants to full maturity, and all employees would first have to undergo a criminal background check, not just owners and managers.

The package of regulations passed in a 5-2 vote in April, with Vice Mayor Diane Howard and Council Member Jeffrey Gee voting against it. Howard and Gee advocated for even tighter rules for cannabis businesses, including a mandatory 1,000-foot buffer — not the 600-foot state minimum — between the new cannabis services and schools, child care centers, youth centers, public parks and libraries.

“I say start slow,” Howard said in support of bigger buffer zone. “We can always add on as we go.”

That proposal would have allowed an exception to the 1,000-foot buffer if Highway 101 were to come between a potential business and a protected area. In that case, the required buffer would have returned to the California minimum of 600 feet.

One resident, however, told the council at a meeting in early April that the 1,000-foot buffer and some other proposed rules were too strict. He said it would have eliminated large swaths of Redwood City as possible business locations, making the fewer available cannabis locations too difficult to access for those who wanted to walk in.

Ultimately, Mayor Ian Bain, joined by councilmembers Alicia C. Aguirre, Janet Borgens, Shelly Masur and John D. Seybert, voted in favor of the package that did not include the wider buffer zone.

The vote means that Phase Three of the introduction of a legal cannabis industry is poised to begin in Redwood City this spring. Phase One allowed the cultivation and delivery of cannabis into the city from outside businesses. Individual cultivation was also legalized.  Phase Two informed delivery operators that they must acquire a business license from Redwood City and pay taxes on it.

City Manager Melissa Stevenson Diaz, and Catherine Ralston, Redwood City’s economic development manager, introduced the proposed package to the council. Diaz and Ralston led a group that has been working on the phased plan approved by the city council late 2017. The plan for cannabis business integration came after California voters approved Proposition 64 in November of 2016, legalizing recreational cannabis.

Seybert said at the April meeting that he was concerned about the cost of mandatory security personnel for non-walk-in services, particularly since only delivery services and nurseries were being approved in Redwood City.

Redwood City resident Michael McCarthy told the council he was concerned that one provision, which would require information to be compiled on those who receive medical cannabis and have that database accessible to police, could violate the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, HIPPA.

Seybert said he shared McCarthy’s concerns for attaining unnecessary information.

“If we don’t know why we want it, then I don’t want it,” the councilmember said, emphasizing issues of cybersecurity and state accountability.

But Diaz later quelled fears, noting some data collection would be necessary in order to properly audit transactions.