Fresno · Highlight

Brand issues Christmas veto on changes to marijuana dispensary licenses

Just before the Christmas holiday, Fresno Mayor Lee Brand vetoed a change in Fresno’s marijuana laws that would have created a special class of recreational dispensary licenses for former marijuana convicts and low income residents. 

In a veto message, Brand aired his grievances with the changes. 

“While I believe that legal adult use cannabis sales in the City of Fresno are inevitable, I also believe we have a duty to be transparent and open in how that legislation is brought to constituents,” Brand said in his veto statement. 

He said that the current ordinance and the now-vetoed update did not specify that approving recreational sales of marijuana required a supermajority vote from the City Council. 

He also objected to the reduction in mandatory retention of security videos from 90 days to 7 days. 

The largest sticking point, it appears, were changes to the city’s Social Equity policy governing marijuana dispensary licenses.   

The policy, a requirement under California’s marijuana laws, seeks to create opportunities for those involved in illegal marijuana activity to enter the legitimate industry.

Across the state, however, social equity policies have come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Fresno’s original policy gave license applicants a blank canvas to develop social equity outcomes for employees.

Language regarding social equity hiring proposed by ordinance co-authors Miguel Arias and Esmeralda Soria was criticized as being excessively prescriptive, requiring one-third of annual work hours be done by low-income individual, marijuana convicts, veterans or former foster youth.

It also set aside two of the 14 dispensary licenses for firms that meet a bevy of criteria cobbling together low-income status, marijuana-related convictions, or union workforce to aid a dispensary applicant’s application for a license.

Brand objected to one criteria that incentivized licensees to have unionized labor, arguing that it conflicted with a required Labor Peace Agreement and could “make it more difficult to award social equity licenses to the most deserving applicants.”

This story will be updated. 

Alex Tavlian
Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at alex.tavlian@sjvsun.com.