Galt considering retail cannabis

Jan. 28—GALT — The City of Galt has begun reaching out to the community in an effort to gauge whether or not commercial retail cannabis should be permitted in town.

Currently, all commercial cannabis business operations, including retail, is prohibited in the city.

In December, the Galt City Council received a presentation from HdL Consultants regarding the cannabis industry and its implications, such as potential retail projections if it was allowed in the city.

During the council's Jan. 17 meeting, city manager Lorenzo Hines presented a cannabis public engagement plan, which aims to provide educational and scientific facts about the industry to the public through outreach efforts such as town hall meetings, social media posts, and community surveys.

Hines said a cannabis survey will be distributed to the community much like the one conducted for Measure Q, the Galt Essential Services Measure that was on the Nov. 8 ballot.

"At the end of the Measure Q survey, we inserted a couple questions about cannabis, because we just wanted to get a feel for how folks were feeling about cannabis," Hines said. "We would like another opportunity to conduct a survey that is more focused on cannabis, and not doing it as a tail-end for Measure Q."

The Measure Q survey cost about $31,000 to conduct, and Hines said a cannabis survey should cost about the same. The sample size of respondents will be about 350 residents.

In addition to a survey, Hines said he would engage all city committees and commissions for feedback on cannabis — except for the city's youth commission — as well as invite community members to participate in an ad hoc community. round table.

He said the youth commission will be excluded from discussions as it is comprised of minors who are not legally permitted to purchase cannabis, so their input would have no bearing on whether or not to allow the industry in town.

"For the ad hoc round table, there are many stakeholders in the community that tend to be sort of the leaders and most vocal in the community," he said. "So I try to get all those folks together into one round table to give me an informed sense of how folks around here feel about the issue."

Hines said several ad hoc meetings and public outreach events will be held, and survey results would be posted on the city's website.

The council will then discuss the item in March and May.

He said the Cannabis Public Engagement Plan will have the same level of activity and funding threshold as the Measure Q outreach efforts.

A handful of Galt residents were split on the issue, with opponents worried about a dispensary placed near schools or the teen center, or attracting homeless individuals.

"I truly believe there is room, medically, for cannabis," Pam Ochoa said. "But we have a homeless crisis in this town. We do not need a cannabis dispensary in this town. We have all these other little community issues that need to be addressed before bringing in something that could present more harm than good."

But Greg Davidson said cannabis dispensaries are probably the safest and cleanest businesses he has ever been inside, adding they can also act as a sort of destination that could bring more visitors to Galt.

"There is no other business I can think of — including a bank — where you have to give your government-issued identification to an armed guard before you even walk through the door," he said. "So if you hear about crime and a bad element being around, please do your research and find out that's not true."

Councilman Shawn Farmer said feedback on the issue —both for and against — is what he and his colleagues want to hear from the community.

He urged residents to spread the word about what the council is considering, so the city can hear from everybody.

"Over the course of the next few months as we do this, if you're in support of it, your voice needs to be heard," he said. "If you're against it, your voice needs to be heard. If your friends think the same way you do, we need to hear from everybody, because this is not something we're going to take lightly, and we need to understand the entire thing as a whole and not look through a narrow lens."

Councilman Kevin Papineau was impressed with the city manager's plan, and particularly liked the educational and scientific focus, which he said will help people learn more about what a dispensary is and is not.

"I think there's a lot of misconceptions on both sides, and a lot of examples statewide .. they vary," he said. "And people need to learn what our ability is to basically restrict locations and operations, should we choose to bring this to town."