BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
Daily Post Staff Writer
Mountain View City Council on Thursday (May 23) scrapped a plan to allow two retail marijuana stores and two delivery services to open in town, instead deciding to allow three delivery businesses, to cheering from a crowd of concerned, largely Chinese parents waving signs opposing marijuana.
The council initially decided in October to allow two retail stores and two delivery businesses to open, and in February received 10 applications from entrepreneurs.
But by then, two pot-friendly council members, Lenny Siegel and Pat Showalter, had been voted out of office and a third, Ken Rosenberg, had stepped down.
In their place were elected council members Lucas Ramirez, Ellen Kamei and Alison Hicks. Kamei and Hicks in particular, like Mayor Lisa Matichak and Vice Mayor Margaret Abe-Koga, have proved to have a more conservative take on the marijuana debate.
Home delivery allowed
The council voted unanimously last night to allow three delivery businesses in town at least 600 feet from a school or child care center, or 250 feet if they’re on the other side of highways 101, 237 or 85, or Central Expressway.
No two businesses can open within 600 feet of each other.
The decision will leave a number of marijuana entrepreneurs in the lurch, though council said they would reopen the application process and give priority to the two delivery businesses that had already applied, Grown and Caliva.
Although 10 entrepreneurs applied back in February, only four of the applications were considered to be complete and qualified, city officials said Thursday.
Some of the applicants didn’t include items like an appropriate site plan, floor plan or adequate lease documents.
An attorney for CB Coastal, a group that wanted to open a pot store at 298 Castro St., appeared before council last night to challenge the city’s rejection of his application for not listing all of the owners.
“Many new corporations, CB Coastal included, do not issue all of their shares when they’re first incorporated,” the lawyer argued.
And the proprietor behind BLVD Dispensary, which wanted to open at the Moffett Plaza shopping center, objected to the city rejecting his application because he mistakenly wrote down the address of the Moffett Mobile Home Park, which is next door and is owned by the same landlord.
No sympathy for mistakes on applications
Vice Mayor Abe-Koga said later in the meeting that she didn’t have “sympathy” for businesses that don’t get their address correct or can’t identify their shareholders.
“If they get 89.4%, they don’t get the A. They get the B. If you don’t know what your address is, or you didn’t double-check the paperwork … that’s a problem for me,” Abe-Koga said. “I still feel like it is a federally illegal business. There’s a lot of vagueness to this, and so I guess to be honest, I’m going to be stricter with this business than a day care center, frankly.”
Before the council ended up abandoning the retail store idea, councilmen Ramirez and Chris Clark advocated for allowing the previous applicants to reapply and find new sites.
But the point is moot now that retail pot stores have been banned, to the delight of a large population that has testified passionately at meetings over the last several months.
Parents speak out
Dozens of members of the public, most of them Chinese parents from Mountain View along with some from Sunnyvale and Milpitas, spoke fervently against marijuana, claiming the stores would tempt children into trying drugs, damage the city’s reputation and increase the risk of DUI.
At one point, Mayor Matichak chided some members of the public for jeering as the council questioned cannabis lobbyist Sean Kali-Rai about what he saw as the benefits of retail pot stores.
One woman mentioned karma to the council and said that “no one” wants to lose a loved one to a car crash caused by an intoxicated driver.
Another speaker related marijuana to opium, relaying her father’s memory of his great-grandfather “lying there all day, couldn’t do anything” as an addict during the Opium Wars in China.
“The consequence is that China just got weakened and foreign countries invaded China at that time,” the woman said. “So for us here in the U.S., for our kids, they are the future of our country. We want them to have strong minds. We want them to have good health.”
The anecdote likely felt like vindication for former Mayor Siegel, who has previously said that he understood the memory of the Opium Wars to be a likely factor in the fierce opposition among the Chinese residents who have been speaking out at meetings.
Vice Mayor Abe-Koga, a political opponent of Siegel’s, criticized that statement by Siegel in March as culturally insensitive, though Siegel went on to criticize her for admittedly not knowing the history of the Opium Wars.
Former mayor defends marijuana use
Siegel attended last night’s meeting to advocate for the council’s original plan of allowing pot stores, disputing the idea, which he said other speakers were expressing, “that the people who use marijuana are depraved.”
“Many people in our community use marijuana. They use it healthfully, they use it safely and they contribute to our community,” Siegel said. “It’s hard for me to understand why people… have a problem with other people being able to buy it legally.”
Councilman John McAlister spoke in support of the pot stores, addressing the audience directly and stating that he had met with three of the vocal marijuana opponents.
“A lot of you talked about your children, and when I talked to (those) three residents, I felt very strongly that they were very diligent on being great parents, and they educated their children from right and wrong, and those children would know how to make decisions,” McAlister said. “People want to, in a sense, say ‘You are to take care of our children,’ but the first line of defense is the parents.”
Medical vs. recreational use
But the view that won out was that of Mayor Matichak.
“I don’t think anybody on the council is talking about trying to inhibit or prevent anybody who wants cannabis for medicinal uses from getting it. I think we’re mostly talking about recreational here,” Matichak said. “For me, it’s very clear that our residents really don’t want cannabis businesses in our city… We should listen to our residents.”