Marysville City Council discusses potential expansion of cannabis industry

Sep. 9—Marysville Mayor Chris Branscum was met with opposition from members of the public and from city council members on Tuesday during a discussion about the possibility of adding a third cannabis dispensary and cannabis production facility in the city.

Branscum requested a cannabis discussion be on the agenda and he presented the item to the council. He said Marysville has benefited from having recreational dispensaries operating in the city. Revenue for the city from the cannabis industry approaches $1 million a year, according to Branscum.

"Without that money, Marysville would be in a fix," Branscum said. "It is a legitimate business."

The city currently has two cannabis dispensaries that allow for both medical and adult use.

He said a cannabis production facility could bring in an additional $1-2 million a year in revenue along with the added revenue from a third retailer. Branscum said Marysville used to have car dealerships, major retail and drug stores that have since left the city.

"So the beauty and charm of Marysville are still here," Branscum said. "We just don't have the resources we've had before."

He said since the cannabis industry has operated in Marysville they have been model businesses and have not led to an increase in DUIs or other crimes. While campaigning last year, Branscum said he heard from people about the homeless issue, Ellis Lake and roads. He said the money made from additional cannabis businesses could provide funding to address these issues.

"This is big business in California. It's major industry," Branscum said. "... There are opportunities for Marysville to take advantage of these and I think they should be looked at very carefully."

He said this was the first step toward getting a third retail business in the city and said the council should consider updating the city's cannabis ordinance to be less stringent and closer to the state's requirements about where dispensaries can be located.

"I know you guys need funds. We all need funds," Jeff Stephens said during public comment. "But I didn't feel pot was the method to get it. It deteriorates our society I feel like. I feel like it's not a good representation of a community."

Stephens was one of three speakers from the public who spoke against expanding the cannabis industry in the city. Former councilmember Stephanie McKenzie also spoke and said she's worried about how adding more dispensaries will impact the city's youth.

"The more we open up the market in our city, the more access our children are going to have and I think in the long run that's going to lead to less success from our young people and less economic development," McKenzie said.

Councilman Dom Belza gave an overview of the history of Marysville and cannabis. He said when a county measure on medicinal use came up in 2016, 58 percent of voters in the precinct that included Marysville voted no. The city passed ordinances regarding recreational use after a statewide measure passed. Belza said he is against amending the city's ordinance to be similar to the state's requirements and asked for more analysis before moving forward.

"It needs to go through a pretty rigorous process before making that determination," Belza said.

Councilmen Stuart Gilchirst, Brad Hudson and Vice Mayor Bruce Buttacavoli all brought up concerns about the possible expansion, including a promise made by previous city councils to not have more than two dispensaries in town.

Buttacavoli was on previous councils and said he would not vote to lighten restrictions on the cannabis industry. He said the city has been catering to the cannabis industry more than it should have.

"I made a promise and I'm not going to change mine," Buttacavoli said.

After hearing the opposition, Branscum said he was not deterred and would continue working on expanding the cannabis industry in Marysville. He said he knew there would be opposition but believes the benefits are important enough to push for.

"I won't give up on it," Branscum said.