Since 2009, the Lodi City Council has prohibited marijuana or cannabis businesses from taking up shop within the city limits.

That may change in the near future once city staff has consensus regarding regulation and taxation from all council members.

The city council received a presentation about the possibility of allowing cannabis businesses in town during its Tuesday shirtsleeve session, and three of five council members favored moving forward.

Although cannabis businesses are prohibited from operating in town, city staff said there are companies that deliver to residents in Lodi.

An image from the website “Weedmaps” was presented during the meeting to show how many cannabis deliveries have been made in the area, and while no specific date and time was given, it does indicate that four Lodi residents received deliveries at some point in time.

City staff said Lodi is missing out on potential revenue from those deliveries.

David McPherson, compliance director with consulting firm HdL Companies, said the city could allow at least three cannabis retailers, based on its population.

Those retailers could generate a minimum of $480,000 in revenue, he projected, along with $120,000 in sales tax.

With as many as six retailers, McPherson projected, the retailers could see a minimum of $720,000 in revenue and $120,000 in sales tax.

Council members Doug Kuehne and Mikey Hothi favored exploring all options for bringing cannabis businesses into town.

“We already have these delivery services that operate (in town),” Hothi said. “This is a huge opportunity for us to do a pro-business thing and collect some additional revenue, but also do so in a way that’s safe. I think there are some jurisdictions around us that are already doing that, just with armed security. I think there is a way to move forward here.”

Councilman Shak Khan said while he favored exploring the idea, he was hesitant to allow retailers to take up shop.

He cited the Cannabis Connect dispensary on Wilson Way in Stockton, noting it was located in a strip mall surrounded by other shopping centers.

Khan feared a retail dispensary similar to Cannabis Connect would ultimately be located in the Heritage District and would increase crime and blight.

“I’m going to be honest with you, that environment I’ve seen makes me feel unsafe,” he said. “I’ve heard that around that area there are a lot of break-ins. I’m okay with (exploring the idea), because we’ve been told that a lot of deliveries are already happening. But that environment with a lot of shops in your area ... I do not feel safe in that environment I’ve seen around this cannabis shop. I would be okay with deliveries only.”

McPherson said the city and its council would get to choose where any retail dispensary would be located, what it looks like and how much police presence or security would be desired.

“One of our clients that’s similar to Lodi is Canyon Lake in Riverside County,” he said. “They are actually having a library and place of worship (raise similar concerns). In Canyon Lake, they want to have 24-hour security with two guards on site. They mandate that. There will also be a lot of cameras on site, both inside the building and in the parking lot. So you get to dictate those things to address any concerns.”

Lodi Police Capt. Eric VerSteeg said the department researched crime statistics in surrounding areas that have allowed retail dispensaries, and found there were no significant increases in illegal activities.

“Some studies are mixed, some even say crime may go down in some areas,” he said. “There’s no indication of teen usage in areas where there are dispensaries. Some cities indicate that fatal collisions or DUIs involving marijuana might go up, but that may also be attributed to increased detection of marijuana-impaired drivers.”

VerSteeg said that did not mean there would not be any challenges posed to law enforcement agencies, particularly when it comes to educating the public and making residents aware that police are prepared to tackle cannabis-related concerns.

Mayor Alan Nakanishi said while he understood the benefits of permitting cannabis businesses to operate in the city, he would not support moving forward.

He said a dispensary would increase use among the city’s youth, create breathing problems for those susceptible to COVID-19, as well as encourage drug-addicted homeless individuals in town to remain incapacitated from cannabis use.

“I understand why city staff and cities support cannabis dispensaries in their jurisdictions, because it gets revenue to run their cities and pay for the homeless costs,” he said. “In the short view, we could receive some revenue — $600K, maybe — but in the long view, it would be harmful for people to sustain the tax revenues from cannabis. More people would need to use it, and the use will increase in our young people. We’re already increasing the use of cannabis, as well as opiates.”

Staff said Vice Mayor Mark Chandler left the meeting minutes before discussion ended, and they wanted to get his input to determine which direction the council would like to take.

They said they would reach out to Chandler before bringing an action item back to the council at a regular meeting.

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