The City of Sonoma’s process to select two retail cannabis dispensaries to operate in the city limits is underway, and city officials this week announced that 10 cannabis businesses had applied for the two business licenses — one for a walk-in storefront dispensary, the other a delivery-only operation.

It’s merely the first stage of the multi-step selection process in awarding the two commercial cannabis licenses as allowed by the city. Each application required an $11,000 processing fee.

The applicants

Among the applicants with local connections are Sonoma residents Ken Brown and Jewel Mathieson, who are working with former Sonoma resident Shivawn Brady and other county cannabis advocates, for dispensary group Justice Grown, which operates multiple dispensaries in the U.S.

Another applicant is Sparc, a San Francisco-based cannabis business which has several California dispensaries — including locations in Sebastopol and Santa Rosa — and a large farming operation in Glen Ellen.

Applicant Jordan Kivelstadt, a Sonoma Valley resident, is partnering with Julian Michalowski, who operates a Central Coast cannabis retailer called Coastal, which has dispensaries, manufacturing and delivery services in Santa Barbara, Lompoc and San Luis Obispo.

The group behind the Mercy Wellness dispensary in Cotati has also applied for a license to operate in Sonoma as R&B Dispensary. Mercy Wellness opened in January, 2018, as a recreational cannabis dispensary – one of the first in the state to sell cannabis to any adult over 21, with or without a medical recommendation.

The six other applicants include EZ Sonoma, which attempted to open a dispensary in Sebastopol last year; California Erudite Ventures (“Herb N’ Joy”), a private equity fund that has applied for other dispensary permits statewide; Jane Sonoma Retail; Harvest of Sonoma; Lighthouse Sonoma; and N.S. Thompson Enterprises (“Pacific Puffs”).

The process

Establishing cannabis sales in Sonoma Valley has taken longer than in some other parts of the county. But last year, then-Mayor Amy Harrington prioritized approving an ordinance to allow for commercial cannabis in town; the city’s Commercial Cannabis Ordinance was approved in 2019.

The cannabis ordinance went into effect on July 30, 2019. But that just started what has turned into a year-long process to file applications, undergo review and public scrutiny, secure a property and a business license before Sonoma sees a legal dispensary open its door, possibly in the fall.

Each applicant will be interviewed by the city’s Proposal Review Committee — via Zoom conference — toward the end of April. Following the interviews, the committee will select the top five applicants to be considered by the City Council. The City Council will then review those most-qualified applications at a public meeting, possibly in late May.

The finalists will need to secure a properly-zoned location, under the terms of the city’s Commercial Cannabis Ordinance, within 45 days, so the council can make its final selection in August, according to City Manager Cathy Capriola.

“The cannabis process is on schedule and the coronavirus has not impacted the timeline,” Capriola told the Index-Tribune.

According to Capriola, a four-month land use and permit process would follow, and the final award of two commercial business licenses toward the end of the year.

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