RICHMOND -- An outpouring of community opposition drove the City Council on Tuesday to reject a permit application for what would have been the city's fifth medical marijuana dispensary.
Owners of Richmond Compassionate Care requested a permit to locate at 425 South Second St., adjacent to the Santa Fe Neighborhood residential area.
Several council members had expressed openness to granting the permit last month, which would have been the first in a noncommercial zone. Five other permits are in effect for other dispensaries, and four are currently in operation in commercial zones, according to police Chief Chris Magnus.
But more than 20 public speakers, most from the Santa Fe Neighborhood Council, vehemently opposed bringing the pot store into their neighborhood. Many expressed concern that the dispensary would exacerbate crime problems and increase drug use.
"I'm appalled that it's even come to this," said resident Raymond Landry. "We do not want this in our community."
Owner John Valdez said he lost more than $200,000 in the past two years paying rent at the site in the expectation that he would be granted a permit. He noted that the site was hidden from nearby homes and more than 2,000 feet from the nearest school.
"I am on my knees at this point," Valdez said. "We have always tried to do the right thing."
This would have been Valdez's first dispensary.
Valdez also offered to pay for 24-hour private security and to fund two additional city police officers to patrol the neighborhood, doubling the normal allotment.
"We want to go in and clean the place up; it's just good business," Valdez said.
But residents and a majority of council members were not convinced.
"If the community doesn't want you, you have to go somewhere else," Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles said.
Councilman Tom Butt said he, too, could not vote to permit a dispensary in the face of such overwhelming opposition from neighbors.
"I can't say what's good for your neighborhood," Butt said. "And there's no shortage of legal marijuana in Richmond now. It's not like we're in a marijuana desert."
Butt noted that Valdez can still open a pot club in commercial districts of the city.
With four operating dispensaries in the city of about 105,000, Richmond has the highest number of dispensaries per capita in the Bay Area.
Councilmen Jim Rogers and Corky Boozé dissented in the decision to deny the permit. Councilman Nat Bates abstained.
Councilman Jael Myrick spoke for more than 14 minutes about all the "false assumptions" surrounding marijuana, saying total decriminalization of the substance was inevitable and calling it "a positive" that customers would come from nearby communities to buy legal marijuana. But Myrick ultimately said he could not vote to permit the new location because of the community's opposition.
"Coffee is just as much of a drug (as marijuana)," Myrick said.
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