Grass Valley City Council OK’s cannabis committee |

Grass Valley City Council OK’s cannabis committee

Grass Valley has finalized its method for determining who will get a permit to operate a commercial cannabis enterprise within city limits.

The City Council on Tuesday approved the membership of the committee that will make those decisions. Council member Tom Ivy abstained.

The vote was the latest step on the road to commercial cannabis — a path the city started in November. That’s when the council took action to amend the municipal and development codes to allow cannabis businesses to operate.

It also put City Manager Tim Kiser in charge of forming a committee to review and then choose among prospective applicants.

“I want to make sure everybody on the council is perfectly clear — this selection committee will be selecting the various businesses. It will not be coming back to council,” said Kiser.

Mayor Ben Aguilar said, ”The committee are the ultimate deciders.”

The committee is comprised of four members: Lisa Swarthout, former mayor, was the first name disclosed to be on the committee. She assisted getting the ordinance in place to allow commercial cannabis in Grass Valley, Kiser said.

Also named was Amy Wolfson, city planner for Nevada City. She also worked to procure support for Nevada City’s commercial cannabis operations and processed applications when submitted.

Also included on the committee is Marty Lombardi, who served as senior vice president of the Savings Bank of Mendocino County and is now president of the Board of Directors of Sierra Nevada Hospital Memorial Fund. He is also involved with numerous local organizations.

Filling out the board is Jonathan Collier, formerly a member of the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance. He also holds a seat on the advisory board of the Yuba Village Building Concern.


Ivy said he wants to give the proper chance to local entrepreneurs to grow jobs. Kiser said the scoring criteria for applicants will not hinge on whether the applicant is a local business.

Aguilar added that all applicants must have an adequate business plan to convince the committee to select them. Vice Mayor Jan Arbuckle pointed out all business plans are presented as is, and that no committee members have any predisposed biases.

“It’s really a well rounded group,” said Arbuckle. “Jonathan Collier is a champion of wanting local businesses to be part of this cannabis industry. So has Lisa (Swarthout) and Marty (Lombardi). I’ve known them to be nothing but fair.”

Ivy raised the question of a 2-to-2 tie vote. Kiser said the committee can keep deliberating or go back to the scoring criteria.

“This panel has the option of doing interviews with applicants that could highlight a superior candidate,” Kiser said. “So I’m hoping between those steps you’d be able to narrow down the elements.”

Council member Hilary Hodge said the city is a destination community for the industry.

“All four people I know will be a deliberative and a thoughtful body for this city,” she said.

Grass Valley will allow no more than two permits for dispensaries (with delivery) and no more than three permits for delivery only. There will be no more than two testing labs, 10 manufacturing permits, two nursery permits, and five distribution permits.

All applications are submitted through the city’s website — The application deadline is Aug. 12.

Tom Last, community development director, said all the variables in compliance requirements make it difficult to predict when a dispensary may open. A conservative estimate would be next spring.

William Roller is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at

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