The Kenwood Press
News: 07/01/2019

Cannabis dispensary proposed for Kenwood

Alec Peters

Local players in the cannabis industry are proposing to place a dispensary in the Kenwood shopping center which – like most anything having to do with the county’s cannabis program – is sure to spark a vigorous discussion.

Sonoma’s Finest 2.0, a partnership of five people with backgrounds in business, hospitality, marketing, and different facets of the cannabis industry, is asking the county for a use permit to open a retail dispensary in a currently vacant 1,900-square-foot space.

The location was formerly a wine tasting room, and has been empty for well over a year. It has two access points, a door that opens up on the shopping center’s courtyard area, and a door to the back parking lot.

The Kenwood shopping center is home to eight other businesses – a branch of the U.S. Post Office, four wine tasting rooms (Seamus, Ty Caton, Spann, and Fathia), Palooza Gastropub, Kenwood Village Market, and the Kenwood Press.

The dispensary has been a subject on local social media sites, with some Kenwood residents wary of the location, fearing possible traffic bottlenecks in the shopping center and Sonoma Highway, and safety issues. Some also wondered about a dispensary’s effect on the small-town character of Kenwood. Others said they wouldn’t have a problem with a dispensary at the proposed location.

“We want to be part of the community and add value,” said Jerred Kiloh, one of the project’s partners. Kiloh lives in Sonoma County, operates a dispensary in Los Angeles, The Higher Path, and is a founder and co-owner of Thrive Center for Birth & Family Wellness in Santa Rosa.

“We plan to run a high-end, upscale operation in a controlled, taxed, and regulated environment.”

Kiloh said he and his partners will host a community meeting within a month to answer any questions or concerns about the dispensary, hopefully in the space itself so people can understand how a dispensary is run.

“We’re going to be transparent. What makes the community comfortable is what we want to do.”

The dispensary wants to cater to the older demographic in the area, said Kiloh, and expects about 250 people a day, spending an average of about 15 minutes in the dispensary.

Other particulars: credit cards will be accepted (Kiloh expects half of the transactions will be by credit card); there will be a security person inside the facility at all times; customers must prove they are at least 21 years of age; and there would be approximately three employees on the dispensary floor every day.

While Kiloh expects much of their business will be from those using cannabis products for medical reasons, the dispensary is legally allowed to have sales for recreational use.

For many years, California regulated medical cannabis dispensaries, requiring clients to have notes from doctors prescribing cannabis for medical reasons.

California voters passed Proposition 64 in November of 2016, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which legalized the sale and consumption of recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older, and established sales and cultivation taxes.

The provisions of Proposition 64 took effect at the beginning of 2018. This allowed licensed dispensaries to offer, if desired, cannabis products for both medical and adult recreational uses.

Local jurisdictions can implement their own cannabis-related rules, for cultivation, manufacturing, testing laboratories, distribution or retail dispensaries.

Sonoma County has a cannabis ordinance, passed by the board of supervisors at the end of 2016, rules that have undergone a number of tweaks along the way.

The county’s cannabis ordinance puts a cap on the number of dispensaries in the unincorporated areas at nine. When the Sonoma’s Finest 2.0 application was first filed, it was put on a waiting list, but recently moved into the number nine slot after the withdrawal of another application.

There are currently five permitted dispensaries in the unincorporated areas, with a total of four still undergoing review by the county, including Sonoma’s Finest 2.0, and one for a dispensary in Glen Ellen at the corner of Arnold Drive and Madrone Road.

The Glen Ellen dispensary has gotten strong pushback from residents in that area, who argue that the dispensary would be too close to residential neighborhoods.

Sonoma County rules state that a dispensary cannot be within 1,000 feet of a public park, or within 100 feet of a residentially zoned district. These two restrictions may be waived by the county if it’s shown that “an actual physical separation” exists between the parcels. The county is currently having discussions on whether or not to reduce those setbacks.

Use permits for cannabis dispensaries in unincorporated Sonoma County must be approved in a public hearing in front of the county’s Board of Zoning Adjustments. There are no dates for that meeting yet for either the Kenwood or the Glen Ellen proposals.

The Glen Ellen dispensary did go for a review by the Sonoma County Citizens Advisory Commission (SVCAC) a little over a year ago. At that time the advisory body, by a 5-4 vote, recommended the county deny the application.

It is likely that the Kenwood dispensary project will go in front of the SVCAC at some point as well.