More medical marijuana dispensaries may soon be proposed in Richmond

Medical marijuana dispensaries generate small profit for city

As many as three new medical marijuana dispensaries might soon be proposed in Richmond as city officials look to ensure that those holding permits to open dispensaries actually do so.

The city offers permits for a maximum of six dispensaries citywide, but currently only three shops are open.

The absence of three dispensaries is a significant loss of sales tax revenue for the city, Police Chief Chris Magnus said during a Public Safety Committee hearing Thursday.

Before the hearing, the chief had recommended revoking Richmond Compassionate Care Collective’s (RCCC) permit for failing to pay quarterly permit fees. The collective’s owner, John Valdez, has struggled to find a spot to open his store since securing the permit in 2011. He stopped paying the quarterly fees of $15,690 to the city after his bid to open a dispensary in the Sante Fe Neighborhood – a noncommercial zone – was rejected last year.

“The city is losing substantial revenue by not receiving these permit fees and not receiving the 5-percent sales tax,” Magnus said.

Meanwhile, the chief added, there has been significant interest from people who want permits and are serious about opening a dispensary.

Magnus ended up striking a deal with Valdez that gives RCCC another six months to find a store location, and 10 days to fork over about $62,000 in unpaid fees.

Two other permits have been revoked and will be available to applicants later this year. One of the revoked permits was held by Green Leaf Collective since 2011. The collective lost its permit this month after failing to pay quarterly fees since 2012. The collective hasn’t had an open dispensary all year, Magnus said.

“At least since January 6, 2014, you have abandoned your operation, ‘freezing’ one of only six permits and in doing so are preventing any other collective from obtaining a permit to operate,” Magnus wrote in a letter to the collective’s owners.

The challenge for permit holders, however, is opening a shop in the face of community opposition and restrictions on locating near schools and homes.

However, Valdez’s attorney believes the climate for medical marijuana dispensaries is more tolerant these days, partly due to the easing of federal enforcement.

“Landlords are much more willing, and financing is available,” he said.