Healdsburg officials took a big step this week towards allowing cannabis dispensaries, passing new local regulations.
The city has long prohibited both medicinal and recreational cannabis sales and operations within city limits.
The city council changed tune in 2020 though, making the approval of commercial cannabis a priority.
Last November, Healdsburg voters approved Measure M, establishing a cannabis business tax to help finance city expenses like emergency services and street maintenance.
Healdsburg community development director Scott Duiven said the city has mostly received support, not just from the business community, but crucially, the public.
"A community survey was conducted in January and February of 2022 in both English and Spanish, and received over 600 responses," Duiven said. "The responses showed that overall the community was supportive of allowing commercial cannabis uses in Healdsburg."
The city’s plans for commercial cannabis still remain restrictive, limiting allowable activities, and the number of dispensaries to just two.
Industry members like Nick Caston say some of the newly-passed rules, like those around security personnel, could backfire.
"Providing a list of who those security personnel are is one thing, but having to have the police chief or a designee provide specific approval prior to those people working could present a issue in operations," Caston said. "Should we need to hire someone to replace someone else, and we're not able to get that approval in a timely manner."
The council’s cautiousness extended to the potential for cannabis lounges, which are excluded from the new ordinance.
Councilmembers Evelyn Mitchell and Ron Edwards gave their thoughts.
"It took us a long time to get to this point," Mitchell said. "I'm not, I'm not quite ready for the consumption lounge. I think that would be a really heavy lift and difficult for our community to accept."
"You know, we are one of the last people to actually get dispensaries," Edwards said. "It's a great concept, but I think that we're going to need a little more time."
Healdsburg’s new cannabis rules will come back before the council for a second reading and full approval soon.