Antioch Council postpones tobacco product sales ban until Dec. 1, denies cannabis event at fairgrounds

Examples of flavored tobacco products that are still allowed to be sold in Antioch until December 1. Source: Youth Tobacco Advocacy Policy Project presentation

Approves four cannabis business operating agreements, purchase of 11 police vehicles and receiving $2.2 million in state funds for rehab of Nick Rodriguez Center

By Allen D. Payton

During their meeting on Tuesday, May 24, 2022, the Antioch City Council voted 3-1 to postpone a ban on sales of certain tobacco products until Dec. 1, with Mayor Lamar Thorpe voting no and Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica absent. The council also approved operating agreements with four cannabis businesses and the purchase of 11 police vehicles in the 590-page agenda with 13 items including the Consent Calendar, which had its own 16 items. But the council denied approval of a cannabis event at the fairgrounds by CoCo Farms on a 2-1-1 vote.

Extends Grace Period for Ban on Sales of Certain Tobacco Products to Dec. 1

The tobacco products sales ban first went into effect on April 7. The council soon after faced a backlash from tobacco retailers in the city for both lack of notification and the ban, itself. The grace period will last until December 1, after a referendum on the statewide Nov. ballot can be voted on and decided. (See related article)

During public comments on the item, former Antioch Councilwoman Norma Hernandez, who along with her husband, Ralph, also a former council member, helped lead the effort on behalf of the tobacco retailers, thanked District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock for getting the matter reconsidered by the council.

The purpose of bringing this back, today was not to reconsider what we did, what we’re doing is extending the grace period,” Thorpe said. “I still support what we did. I was sympathetic and went and met with store owners. I was the one who brought it back. But I’m not going to change my position on what we did.”

He also spoke of the support by the tobacco industry for the coalition to repeal the statewide ban and the millions of dollars they’ve contributed to the effort.

“What we did was listen to our youth,” he continued. “Understand why we made the decision. I do support the grace period. But I am still where I’m at.”

“I do support the grace period,” Ogorchock stated, then made the motion to adopt it until Dec 1. After a long pause, District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker seconded it. The motion passed on a 3-1 with Thorpe voting against.

Approves All Consent Calendar Items

The council voted to approve all but one of the 16 items on the Consent Calendar on a 4-0 vote, except for Item F which Ogorchock asked to have removed for a separate vote. That item was the second reading for the creation of the Antioch Police Oversight Commission which passed on a 3-1 vote during the last meeting when Ogorchock was absent and Barbanica voted no. It again, passed on a 3-1 vote with Ogorchock voting no, this time.

The other 15 items included establishing a Military Use Equipment Policy in compliance with Assembly Bill 481; the purchase of 11 police vehicles at a cost not to exceed $523,141.10; extending the contract with the city’s public information officer for another six months at a total of $288,000; and authorizing the filing of a project grant application through the California Natural Resources Agency for $2.2 million for the rehabilitation of the Nick Rodriguez Community Center. According to the staff report on the item, “In July 2021, staff were informed that the project was approved and that a total of $2,200,000 was awarded for the project.”

The council also approved the minutes for their meetings on April 12, 19 and 26 and May 10.

Forms New City Department

The council voted 3-1-1 to form the new Public Safety and Community Resources Department, with Ogorchock voting no. It will take five existing services from other departments and add two new services. (See related articles here and here)

“Environmental justice…housing…youth services…violence prevention is about public safety,” Torres-Walker stated in support of her proposed, new department.

“I’m certainly not creating change…the voters created the change you’re seeing, today, “Thorpe added.

Approves Operating Agreements with Five Cannabis Businesses

The council approved operating agreements with five cannabis businesses in the city including Delta Family Pharms, Inc. at the same location as the Delta Dispensary on W. 10th Street and owned by the same operators.

Ralph Hernandez spoke against the cannabis businesses saying it is still illegal under federal law and that the city shouldn’t partner with businesses that operate against federal law. He also said marijuana is an entry drug and that many prisoners started out with marijuana.

Hernandez spoke of the negative side effects of marijuana use, including paranoia and schizophrenia.

“One joint is equal to 20 cigarettes,” he stated.

“You all took an oath to uphold the law, both state and federal, but here, the city is approving violating federal law,” Hernandez said. “It doesn’t make sense.”

Resident and local homeless advocate Andrew Becker spoke next, saying federal laws against marijuana allow the “incarceration of people for decades”.

“People can become addicted from MacDonald’s and end up as gamblers,” he stated. “It’s the system that breaks communities, not cannabis.”

“Let’s look at these opportunity programs that are coming from cannabis,” Becker added, referring to the city’s requirements that cannabis business donate a portion of their revenues to local non-profit organizations.

“I’m ecstatic that East County Justice Center is a beneficiary,” Ogorchock said. She also asked that the Bedford Center benefit from the business.

The council approved another cannabis business operating agreement for Delta Labs, owned by the same family, will be located at the same place but “in a different office, for manufacturing using non-volatile chemicals…taking the grown cannabis…and treating it for sale at a cannabis facility,” a city staff member stated.

Hernandez spoke again saying, ““I have personally seen the consequences of people using marijuana. They smoked marijuana, they get high, the crash vehicles. They do home invasion robberies.”

“This is not a candy…even though they put it in products to make it candy…brownies” he stated. “The consequences may not all be death or serious. I’ve seen the bodies I’ve seen the results. I have the photos that I took of people. I’ll show them to you if you want.”

“I don’t think you should approve it just so the city can get money from these people,” Hernandez added. “Don’t be sold by people who want to make money by giving you a carrot.”

Resident Brenda Barret said, “this is a drug culture country…and people are not going to stop getting high. So, government has taken a tack of if they’re going to get high, let’s make money off of it.”

“Maybe that money goes to pay our garbage bill,” she suggested. “If we’re going to get involved in drugs as a city, then everyone needs to benefit.”

“We’ve been doing this for three years, now,” Thorpe stated. “Councilwoman Wilson and I didn’t vote for Prop. 68 (which legalized recreational marijuana statewide). But we took the time to do our homework. When I saw the overwhelming support by Antioch voters, higher than the state…I think we came up with a good policy. It was based on listening to residents. We didn’t haphazardly get here. It was not about money.”

The council also approved operating agreements with KWMA Collective, located in the same building complex as Delta Dispensary but under different ownership and Bakery Antioch I, LLC located on W. 10th Street, to reflect the change in ownership from Cookies to Red Workshop.

Denies Approval of Cannabis Event at Fairgounds

On a surprise 2-1-1 vote, with Ogorchock voting no and Thorpe abstaining, the proposed cannabis event at the Contra Costa Event Center (fairgrounds) by CoCo Farms was denied. Thorpe had previously voted to move the proposed item forward and bring it back for a final vote which occurred Tuesday night. (See related article)

On Wednesday following the meeting, Thorpe was asked via email, “why did you vote to abstain on the cannabis event? Was it because you have invested in the CoCoFarms IPO? (The company is raising capitol through an initial public offering). If so, shouldn’t you have also recused yourself completely from the discussion, stepped down from the dais and left the council chambers during that agenda item? Or did CoCoFarms contribute to your anti-recall committee after March 31 and you were avoiding the appearance of a conflict of interest, even though there isn’t one legally for campaign contributions?” Thorpe’s anti-recall campaign committee Form 460 report doesn’t show a contribution from Contra Costa Farms, LLC, the legal name of the company.

Please check back later for the mayor’s responses or any other updates to this report.

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