What can cannabis do for Oakdale?
That’s the million-dollar question for city leaders as they navigate uncharted waters in the new world where cannabis is legal and everyone wants in on the new “gold rush” of potential riches.
And judging by the healthy turn-out at the second pre-submittal conference, held Wednesday, June 14 at the Bianchi Community Center — there are plenty of people who think they have the right answer.
And if they had their nonrefundable $5,000 application fee along with their proposal turned into the city by the deadline this past Monday, June 19 by 3 p.m. – they might even have the winning ticket.
“We want to be open and honest … things are changing on a regular basis,” City Manager Bryan Whitemyer said, addressing the assembled crowd. “We want to maintain the quality of life we are blessed with here in Oakdale.”
In other words, the city is open to enjoying the tax benefits a well-run dispensary or cannabis-based business can provide – as demonstrated by other cities that have already pushed forward with this new business opportunity – but they are wary of approving anything that might challenge the city’s established reputation.
“Oakdale is a conservative community,” Whitemyer said. “But I’ve been hearing comments out there, like, ‘I didn’t vote for it but the people have spoken and we should take advantage and capitalize on it.’ Attitudes and perspectives are changing. It was a four-to-one vote (of the city council) to go forward with this process. The city is open to learning more.”
Currently, the city ordinance has a moratorium on marijuana dispensaries but as Whitemyer stated, attitudes are changing, leaving more room for discussion, even in towns as, admittedly, conservative as Oakdale.
The quality of the proposals will determine how the language of the new ordinance will be phrased, encouraging quality, well-thought-out and financially viable proposals.
“This is part of the process, talking about it. I’ve encouraged the (council) to move quickly,” Whitemyer said. “If we are too slow, we might as well not even do it.”
Oakdale legal counsel Tom Hallinan, Jr. added, “We’re tilling new soil here. It’s exciting and unnerving at the same time. It’s a brave new world. Everything pivots on what you turn in.”
While some of the attendees questioned the nonrefundable $5,000 application fee, Hallinan reminded them that the process shouldn’t be a “net-loss for the city” as they move forward with this new business prospect.
So, how many proposals will be accepted?
The answer caused some grumbles.
“The city could approve zero or multiple,” Whitemyer said. “There are free market principles at work here. We really don’t know where this goes. Consider the proposal as a job interview. Some will get call-backs, some won’t.”
The proposals will be evaluated and categorized by a committee comprised of consultants familiar with the industry, Whitemyer assured the crowd.
“We have a team in place to review the proposals,” he said.
Hallinan piped in, saying city officials “are trying to educate ourselves.”
While the parameters of the proposals were lenient, Hallinan confirmed that people should keep in mind existing state regulations, such as adhering to the 600 feet buffer between schools, etc., when submitting their proposals.
“The best proposal has to hit all of these points,” Whitemyer said.
There are so many different ways this could go, he added. With the legalization of marijuana, there’s a whole new world of possibilities that go beyond the dispensary.
Testing sites, grow facilities, cultivation supplies, etc., the proposal with the best plan is likely to win a place at the top of the tier.