BENICIA >> The City Council voted unanimously at Tuesday night’s meeting to bar cannabis dispensaries from First Street and the downtown area.
The decision about whether or not to have them on First Street was handled separately from the rest of the city because of zoning issues with the downtown mixed-use master plan. Councilmember Alan Schwartzman also had to recuse himself from discussions of the area since he is a property owner in the vicinity. Should the council have voted to allow dispensaries on First Street, Schwartzman would have had to recuse himself from all other deliberations about pot elsewhere, and that could impact any final vote.
The meeting was packed with people who showed up to give their opinions during the public comment portion, with the overflow rooms being employed to handle the turnout. The majority of people who spoke about cannabis businesses on First Street opposed the idea, as many of them expressed concern with the message it would send to the city’s youth and how it could change the family-friendly draw of downtown.
Resident Pamela Chalk addressed the council and said that having a cannabis shop on a parade route wouldn’t support the hometown vibe she loves and supports.
Patrice Heller gave an impassioned plea about the safety of children in the community and the danger of drugs.
“I’m really worried,” she told the council.
Heller asked the council to consider ancillary costs of allowing legal pot in town. “Experimenting and exposing our children so closely to risky health consequences” is not worth any tax revenue, she said.
Several high school students who belong to Friday Night Live, a group that creates anti-drug messages and raises awareness about issues that can affect teens, all spoke out against the proposed ordinance. Some said that they didn’t think their