The Vallejo City Council voted on Tuesday to increase the hours of operation for cannabis retailers, with Councilmember Katy Meissner and Vice Mayor Hermie Sunga dissenting. Councilmember Hakeem Brown recused himself from the vote.
Currently, cannabis retailers can be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., but state law allows for retailers to be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
In the wake of COVID-19, business owners and customers have asked the city to increase the hours of operation, according to the City Manager’s office. The office also argued that any extra tax revenue would be welcome and needed as the city struggles with the effects of the pandemic.
Scott Foster, owner of the U.S. Bloom dispensary in Vallejo, says that COVID-19 has taken a toll on business, especially in the earlier days of the shutdown when business had to take place outside in the parking lot (something people didn’t feel comfortable doing). He says that customers have been requesting longer hours of operation to avoid lines, as well. And finally, US Bloom has also had to increase its delivery service from two to six cars.
Meissner was concerned that the locations of current dispensaries are in need of being re-evaluated, as some are next to residential neighborhoods. She said any discussion of changing hours should be held to after the subject of locations is hammered out. Councilmember Sunga didn’t directly say why he voted to decline the idea, though he questioned why the change would fall under an “emergency ordinance” attached to COVID-19 relief, which is how it is designated.
Though the increase in hours passed, it was with the understanding that it would only last until the council takes up new zoning discussions in March, at which time it will be re-evaluated.
One caller expressed her opposition to the changes during public comment. Anne Carr was concerned that there were not enough police to monitor the extended hours, though dispensaries provide their own security. She also brought up her concern with the illegal cannabis market and how having longer hours could increase that traffic.
“We would be getting more guns and an element we don’t want,” she said. “What kind of business climate do we want to create here?”
Mayor Bob Sampayan, who voted to extend the hours, said that he has carefully looked at watch command notes for a year and a half, and in that time has only seen once incident involving a dispensary. US Bloom owner Foster claims that crime has actually gone done in the neighborhood surrounding his dispensary, due to the increased security he provides.
The police have not released an analysis of any impact on crime that local dispensaries may or may not foster.