City looks to approve Grass Valley cannabis businesses |

City looks to approve Grass Valley cannabis businesses

With millions of dollars potentially at stake, Grass Valley is creating a process to determine which business will be the sole retail cannabis dispensary permitted in the city.

The council last month approved an ordinance that would allow up two cannabis dispensaries (one per 7,500 residents), three delivery services, two testing labs, five distribution businesses, two nurseries and 10 manufacturers in Grass Valley.

That ordinance will go into effect by the end of the year.

To determine who gets the slots, the city will create a scoring system based on the business plan, ownership, community benefits and other categories. Businesses will submit a preliminary application that will go through an initial screening by a city committee before select applicants are asked for a formal application.

Public workshops will be held on the initial screening criteria and formal application, according to staff reports.

Committee members will be appointed by the city manager and approved by the council.

According to Community Development Director Tom Last, the applications would be open for 60 days, and with six to eight weeks for scoring, the first applicants could be approved by late May or early June.


In cities across California, deciding which businesses profit from the once illegal substance has become the source of social activism and civil lawsuits.

The rollout of cannabis business licences in Los Angeles County has led to lawsuits over everything from corruption allegations to computer glitches.

According to Diana Gamzon, executive director for the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance, transparency is also at issue with the selection committee.

“Appointments to a selection committee by City Council members, each elected by Grass Valley citizens, would have allowed for a diversity of interests to be represented,” Gamzon said in an email.

“When looking at the data across the state (for similar cannabis selection processes), it is unusual for city staff to make direct appointments as this is a competitive process and mostly done by elected officials or their appointees.”

The committee meetings will be subject to the Brown Act and members will have conflict of interest statements on file, City Attorney Michael Colantuono said. The requirement will essentially exclude anyone that has made a living in the cannabis industry in the past year from serving on the committee.

Cannabis industry representatives would still be able to engage in the process through public comment, the council noted.

In June, the Board of Supervisors approved a contract with Humboldt State University for a cannabis equity assessment that would determine how communities disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition could be restored in light of legalization. The report is expected to be finalized in January.

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email or call 530-477-4229.

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