Before awarding even a single retail marijuana license, Fresno City Council is considering increasing the number of licensed sellers.
The current allocation is 14 retail cannabis licenses – two in each of the council’s seven districts. The city code allows this number to increase to 21, with three in each district.
The municipal council is should vote on the extension to 21 at its meeting on Thursday. The resolution is sponsored by members of the Cannabis Subcommittee: Miguel Arias, Nelson Esparza and Mike Karbassi.
Esparza applauds the expansion effort.
“Fresno will reap the positive economic impact of adding additional licenses while remaining well below the ratio of 1 retail license per 10,000 people,” Esparza said. “In our current political framework, cannabis is much more regulated and fairly distributed in Fresno than this fiasco we have experienced with the saturation of liquor stores for decades.”
Esparza says the expansion now rather than later would capitalize “on the economies of scale of the current application process.”
Karbassi does not know if this is the right decision. His name appears as the sponsor because he is on the subcommittee.
“I haven’t decided if I’m going to vote for this,” Karbassi said. “What concerns me is that I consider it alcohol. I am worried about impaired driving. I am worried about something so new. So I don’t know if I really want a proliferation of more dispensaries, ”Karbassi said.
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Karbassi said that information from Weed Cards, a website featuring multiple delivery services in the Fresno / Clovis area, says demand could be strong enough for seven more retailers.
“We are talking about the illegal operations that we have now. … There are a lot of dispensaries right now, part of the state’s demands is to shut them down and stop the illegal sale. The hypothetical hope is that you guarantee safe products, good products. We obviously have to capture the tax revenue from that, as opposed to someone selling God knows what, ”Karbassi said.
Esparza, who also teaches economics at Fresno City College, says the city can handle more places.
“Cities with higher per capita license rates suggest that Fresno will have no problem supporting 21 companies,” Esparza said. “The market will take some time to calibrate as these new establishments are introduced and residents of Fresno get used to having legal and sanctioned locations to purchase recreational cannabis. If there is a miscalculation, then ultimately the free market will adjust accordingly, as it does in any industry, ”Esparza said.
Timeline: interviews now, licenses in December
the estimated schedule – updated last month – shows the interview process for social equity applicants starting this week. Retail licenses will be granted in two categories: standard, which covers most applicants; and social fairness, where applicants must meet certain income and fairness thresholds, such as a previous conviction for a marijuana-related crime.
For seven licenses, one or two must fall into the social equity category. The city says there are 75 applicants for standard retailers and 20 in the social equity category.
The scoring of candidates, based on a set of criteria, is expected to be completed by August 20. The conditional use permit process – setting operating standards for retailers in their specific locations – begins August 30. It is scheduled to end on December 3.
The city council will eventually vote on the issuance of UPCs for candidates selected by the city manager.
Karbassi expects legal issues after the selection of retailers.
“Once we start rating people, even though we have those standards there, people are going to complain. We’re probably going to be sued because people are going to say it’s unfair, ”Karbassi said.