Antioch Council approves fourth cannabis business in city, first to include growing, manufacturing

The marijuana grow operation at Rio Vista Farms owned by the same owners of Contra Costa Farms LLC. Photo from Rio Vista Farms Facebook page.

Approve operating agreement process for cannabis businesses already approved

By Allen Payton

During their meeting on Tuesday night, Sept. 10, 2019, the Antioch City Council voted 4-1 to approve the land use and zoning for the Contra Costa Farms, LLC Cannabis Business for a 9-acre cultivation, manufacturing, dispensary and delivery compound on Wilbur Avenue in the northeast part of the city. It’s the fourth marijuana business in Antioch, and the first in the eastern Cannabis Business Overlay District. Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock was the only one to vote against the business. (See related article)

“It’s a pure land use entitlement, this evening,” said Community Development Director Forrest Ebbs.

The applicant had 10 minutes for their presentation, since the agenda item was a public hearing.

Our goal is to build a significant company, here in Antioch,” said Martin Wesley, one of the owners of the business. His brother and father are the other owners, according to staff at their Rio Vista Farms location. Contra Costa Farms LLC presentation ACC 09-19

A significant amount of good paying jobs…and tax dollars for the city,” he said.

They also want it to be a positive experience for the community.

Wesley said their Rio Vista Farms operation is generating $12 million a year in sales “in a matter of 15 months”.

“Security is first. Our priority is to have 24-hour armed security,” he stated and said there would be three armed guards, 24 hours a day, although the agreement with the city only requires one armed guard, 24 hours a day and two armed guards during business hours.

“Our pricing strategy is against the black market,” he added.

Dr. Jeffrey Klingler was the first member of the public to speak against the proposed business and was also given 10 minutes as the primary opponent.

“I’m here, again because you’re here, again. No doubt it will be approved again. Look at all that money. I have a civic responsibility to try to balance the equation…of how good cannabis is.”

“There is a cost side to this, not just a benefit,” he said. “These products are not just benign.”

He referred to the Centers for Disease Control reports.

“Smoking weed is still smoking,” Klingler stated. “You smoke marijuana for the psychoactive result. Recreational marijuana, the purpose of which is to get high.”

“Marijuana products today, have a much higher THC content. These are powerful chemicals. They belong in the hands of medical professionals,” he continued.

“It’s the gates, cameras, guards and guns” that make the neighborhood around the cannabis dispensary safer.

“This country has spent untold billions of dollars on smoking cessation programs, a legal product,” Klingler pointed out. “We’re still working at. I suspect, the same thing will happen with marijuana products.”

People in the audience then started yelling.

Mayor Sean Wright had to let them know he had 10 minutes to speak, to quiet them down.

“People will scratch their head and say, ‘what were they thinking?’” he concluded.

Pointing at the applicant, the next speaker said, “He said there would be three armed guards, 24 hours a day. That’s not true. Rewind the tape. That’s not what the agreement says. They’re going to charge $65 for two hits. I can go around the corner and get it for $20. So, you guys are not going to make any money.

How many people have died recently from vape pens? Five people have died,” he shared.

“I’m actually speaking for it. My name is Andy Perry,” said the next speaker. “It is a cannabis dispensary. There are only certain cannizones, only certain number of businesses that can go in.”

“I don’t smoke,” she continued. “I am totally into health and nutrition and the veterans’ side of it.”

“I do have arthritis and CBD is awesome. The community is driven there who have a lot of pain. You have to be 21. You get ID’d there. You don’t get ID’d at every corner 7-11. You can buy alcohol anywhere at any corner store. A kid can pay someone to buy it for them. Think about the health benefits and people who don’t smoke,” she concluded.

The council members then took up the item.

Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts then asked the applicant regarding the projected 269 jobs.

“Will it be prevailing wage jobs?”

“Initially the employees are paid $15 per hour then after 90 days are paid $20 per hour and are included in the company health plan that I’m on,” he responded.

“It is true their application was deemed complete before the amendment to the ordinance,” City Attorney Smith said. “But all three previous approvals were required to get a development agreement (prior to granting a certificate of occupancy). I recommend city council amend that part of this agreement, here. Otherwise that would allow them to be up and running and then negotiate with the city.”

Thorpe then attempted to make his and the council’s approval appear passive and outside of their control.

“I met with the folks from Rio Vista. It’s the only dispensary I ever visited, so I have no questions,” Thorpe said. “In developing the cannabis policy, we had some extensive meetings to allow the public to give input. Our actions are about land use.”

“It has nothing to do with our feelings about cannabis overall. Councilwoman Ogorchock made some good points last time, there are too many. Whether you agree with what the voters of California approved or not, it’s about zoning. We have to be fair to all applicants.”

However, it was Thorpe and the council majority who approved the city’s Cannabis Business Overlay Districts in 2018 and the statewide initiative, Prop. 64, left it up to city councils or supervisors to decide what they will allow inside their cities or counties.

The council then approved a process for adopting operating agreements instead of development agreements with the four cannabis businesses already approved by the council, including the one approved Tuesday night.

the attachments to this post:

Contra Costa Farms LLC presentation ACC 09-19
Contra Costa Farms LLC presentation ACC 09-19

Rio Vista Farms marijuana grow operation

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