In-depth: Some parts of Bay Area slow to embrace legal recreational pot

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We are just shy of the one-year anniversary of recreational weed being made legal for adults.

However, because the new law allows for local control, there are some parts of the Bay Area where pot is still not easy to come by.

On Thursday night, KRON4 takes an in-depth look at which Bay Area locations are seeing the largest amount of pot sales and which are still taking their time in rolling out the legislation.

While some cannabis dispensaries in Oakland and San Francisco allow customers to toke up, there are many places in the Bay Area still without shops that sell what’s now legal in the state to consume. That’s because Proposition 64 approved last November allowed for each city and county to put their own rules in place–and that is making for a slow rollout of the new law in some spots. 

“Writing a thoughtful and careful ordinance that really explains what a jurisdiction wants to do does take some time,” Napa County Deputy Executive Officer Molly Rattigan said.

According to the California Tax and Fee Administration, there’ve been 250 million taxable transactions in the nine-county Bay Area during the first six months that recreational weed became legal.

The local top seller of pot is San Francisco, which had $83 million in cannabis sales, while the County of Napa has not had a single taxable pot transaction.

That might change next year. Since the Napa is in the process of allowing medicinal dispensaries in town, and American Canyon plans to issue a limited number of permits for commercial businesses like grow houses in their industrial area.

And while the county allows for pot delivery and for people to grow their own, the ban on commercial cannabis businesses put in place right after Prop 64 became law remains in effect.

Not only that, later this month, the board of supervisors will consider extending that ban another year.

The county spokesperson says commercial cannabis is just not something they want to rush into, especially since Napa is already a popular tourist destination because of another crop.

“Napa County is known as a world-renowned wine industry,” Rattigan said. “We do wine really well, just like Silicon Valley does software manufacturing really well. Pittsburgh does steel really well. We don’t know where cannabis fits in yet to the greater scheme of Napa County, and we just need some time to figure out what that looks like for us.”

“And can you plant cannabis next to wine grapes and the chemicals that you would use on cannabis how…they affect wine grapes and so these are questions that need to be answered,” Napa County Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Klobas said

Klobas says they’ve been approached by grape growers interested in growing cannabis, but they have yet to take a stand on the matter. 

“This is a field that’s very new and finding experts that can give you definitive answers about this is difficult, and that’s why we’ve taken our time and going through a process that really allows us to study the issue and really determine is there going to be a problem? (Can) you grow cannabis next to wine grapes at all?” Klobas said.

Benicia, in nearby Solano County, recently rolled back their ban on commercial pot.

Several dispensaries are vying to be one of two permitted in the town of 28,000 people, in areas away from their quaint downtown.

But there is no limit on the number of cannabis cultivators, manufacturers, distributors, or testing facilities that will be allowed in their industrial section.

“We know there’s a black market for cannabis anyway, and if we wanted to try to get ahead of it, one of the things to do was to regulate it and be very scrupulous in who we invited in and allowed in and so we are in that process now,” Benicia Vice Mayor Steve Young said.

The vice mayor says voters will decide this November whether or not to allow the city council to tax those businesses using the money generated to help pay for services like police and fire departments and libraries.

If Measure E passes, the city council will decide in late November just how high to set that tax rate to help them raise the funds they need but not so steep to discourage those cannabis businesses from moving in.

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