Fresno

As applicants wait, Fresno expands number of marijuana dispensaries to 21

Fresno will soon be the home to even more recreational pot shops than originally anticipated.

The Fresno City Council approved a resolution Thursday that increases the number of cannabis retail licenses from 14 to 21, allowing three stores per each of the seven council districts. 

The resolution was approved via a 4-3 vote, with Council members Garry Bredefeld, Luis Chavez and Mike Karbassi dissenting. 

Chavez, the council president, was the only member who offered any comments on the resolution. 

“I got a couple calls from constituents on that item as well,” Chavez said. “I do have some concerns, and it’s obvious that applicants in my district did not bother reading the guidelines.” 

Thursday’s action comes before the city has even issued any licenses. 

The city council originally approved recreational marijuana dispensaries within Fresno in December 2018, and the application submittal process was closed last December. 

There have been 75 standard retail applicants and 20 social equity retail applicants, according to the city. 

Social equity applicants have to meet a set criteria, such as being from a low income household and having a past conviction for a cannabis crime, among other options. 

District 3 – which covers downtown and southwest Fresno – by far had the largest number of applicants at 32. No other district had more than 15. 

The city has started interviewing social equity applicants and will continue to do so until July 8. 

Standard retail applicants will have their interviews conducted from July 13 to August 6. 

The city projects the earliest opening date – which will be for a social equity applicant – will be in November. 

Flag-flying squabbling

While the Pride Flag is set to fly for the first time at Fresno City Hall on Friday, the City Council and Mayor Jerry Dyer have not come any closer to determining the long-term plan for flag flying. 

Two weeks ago, the Council passed a resolution giving each Council member the authority to fly whichever flag that pleases them on the flag poles outside of City Hall, with an exception for religious flags. 

Dyer, who spoke out against that resolution, proposed an alternative last week: Unity Park at Eaton Plaza in downtown, which will have seven flag poles open to the public. 

Wednesday, at the Dyer administration’s direction, city crews poured concrete and erected the seven poles in the downtown park.

Despite placing the seven flags at Eaton Plaza, Dyer has still refused to say whether or not he will veto the council’s original resolution. He has until Friday to do so. 

With Dyer absent from Thursday’s council meeting – save for an appearance over Zoom during the Council member, City Manager and Mayor reports and comments section – some Council members teed off on Dyer and his administration. 

Councilmember Miguel Arias said he intended to bring forward an item Thursday to overturn the Unity Park idea, but he got bogged down with the packed council agenda. 

“Next week we’ll begin the first of many consequential discussions related to Fresno’s future, specifically around how we rebuild the city after the pandemic, and instead of taking time this week to prepare for those critical conversations, we’ve all been distracted over a single pole and a flag,” Arias said. 

“In my view, the mayor chose to stir up the city over this single item that has been mistakenly described by him and others as a ‘cause,’ which it’s not.” 

Arias called the Unity Park proposal “hasty” and said the City Council, not the mayor, has the sole authority to rename or repurpose Eaton Plaza. 

Dyer responded saying he is not trying to rename Eaton Plaza and respects the fact that the Eaton family donated the land for it. He hopes to bring forward a policy in the near future that will outline the purpose of Unity Park. 

“I continue to see Eaton Plaza as a way to complement ceremonies that occur at City Hall in terms of flag raising and serving as an alternative site on some of the other occasions where maybe the flag won’t be raised at City Hall but can be at Eaton Plaza,” Dyer said. 

Arias got the final word in the argument, saying Dyer and his administration should be focussed on other problems in his district instead of Unity Park. 

“I have broken splash parks, broken park structures,” Arias said. “I have swimming pools that are not open, so it’s a little frustrating that we have time to redirect our city employees to go put up poles and bypass the broken restrooms on Eaton Plaza, bypass the broken [Electric Vehicle charging] stations, but somehow they have time to prioritize cement work for flag poles.”

Daniel Gligich
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.