A new medical marijuana collective may be coming to Hilltop — but it won’t be for another four months, at least.
The Richmond City Council last night nearly granted permission for a collective to move into a new building in the neighborhood, but the governing body decided to hold off on a decision after considering comments from dozens of members of the public. The indecision is the latest in the Council’s uncertain approach to medical marijuana collectives.
The public hearing revolved around the Compassionate Care Collective’s application to relocate their dispensary to 3190 Klose Way. The medical marijuana collective doesn’t not currently have a location, and rules set by the Council require that collectives to establish a location within six months of being granted a permit or they would lose it entirely.
That deadline comes in early July for Compassionate Care, which made this a pressing matter.
The Richmond Police Department Regulatory Unit had no opposition to allowing the collective to operate in the location, but Hilltop residents had their own concerns.
“Many people are in favor of the dispensary, just not the location,” explained Hilltop Neighborhood Council President Cesar Zepeda. “Hilltop residents feel it is too close to other businesses and that there are other dispensaries in the area.”
Two other collectives call the Hilltop area home, and the 1,700 Hilltop residents who signed a petition against Compassionate Care’s application felt that the addition of a third would cause harm to their neighborhood.
“This isn’t about the good of marijuana, it’s about the people from Hilltop saying they don’t want this, and that’s what you need to respect tonight,” one speaker said.
A majority of the nearly 70 speakers during public comment were in favor of the collective, however. One woman cited how the building — which used to house Restaurant La Revolucion — is isolated from other shops in the area, so traffic going to the dispensary would be less likely to mingle with families attending the movie theater across the street. Many medical marijuana patients supported increased accessibility to their medicine.
The passionate arguments on both side of the issue left the Council with much to consider.
“I feel conflicted,” said Councilmember Jael Myrick. “I have no problem with marijuana, but this location really sticks out to me.”
Councilmember Eduardo Martinez found the community’s concern especially troubling. “I don’t see a problem with the dispensary being in this location,” Martinez said. “But I do have a problem with the community of Hilltop Mall not wanting it there.”
The conflict between supporting the collective while respecting the concerns of the Hilltop community led the Council to strike a compromise. The council agreed to extend Compassionate Care Collective’s permit another three months from its point of expiration in early July, given that they would explore other locations in the meantime.
Last night’s debate was the Council’s latest over how to regulate medical marijuana in the city.
In mid March the Council considered how to clean up the City’s regulations on medical marijuana collectives. The conversation almost went up in smoke over disagreements about whether or not the city should limit the number of permits. In the end, the Council decided to allow a total of six medical marijuana permits, but no decisions were made about how or where the collectives should be located.
The latest decision by the Council kicks the conversation down the road to July.
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