No fourth medical marijuana dispensary for Richmond

Medical marijuana dispensaries generate small profit for city

An effort to add a fourth medical marijuana dispensary in Richmond was defeated after failing to gain support at Richmond City Council on Tuesday.

In March, council voted to reduce the number of allowable medical marijuana dispensaries in Richmond from six to three, and also opened up three permits for marijuana edibles manufacturing sites.

Currently, there are three permitted dispensaries operating in the city. But as part of the council’s March directive, a fourth permit holder that had been struggling since 2011 to open in Richmond was grandfathered in. However, that permit holder — Richmond Compassionate Care Collective (RCCC) — was given a deadline to establish a location for its dispensary or else lose its permit.

The deadline has passed and RCCC has still not found a location to locate that has community support. On Tuesday, RCCC failed to convince enough council members to offer an extension, so its permit has been revoked and cannot be reissued.

Brad Hirsch, an attorney representing RCCC, argued that his client deserved more time to find a viable location given that it has invested about $500,000 in permit fees and other costs trying to locate in Richmond over last four years. The permit holder had battled stiff zoning regulations and opposition from neighbors. Hirsch alleged that the lack of community support was part of a conspiracy by some community leaders to oppose the dispensary. The attorney said one prominent community member accepted $5,000 in cash to win community support for RCCC. That individual, Hirsch said, then turned against the permit holder after a subsequent cash demand was denied. Richmond police Capt. Mark Gagan said his department would look into the allegations to see if any laws were broken.

Hirsch also mentioned RCCC was very close to establishing a location, mentioning the old Volvo building at 23rd Street and Bissell. That location, however, had not been vetted publicly.

While several councilmembers expressed support for medical marijuana in general, some don’t believe there’s enough community support for a fourth operation. Councilmember Jovanka Beckles questioned why RCCC would want to continue to spend money on the effort in the face of continued opposition from neighbors. She and other councilmembers also questioned doing business with RCCC after its attorney admitted to paying a community member cash to ensure community support.

The decision to nix the permit will come at a cost to the city. According to City Manager Bill Lindsay, the city will lose about $68,000 annually in fees and $200,000 in sales tax revenues now that RCCC’s permit has been revoked and cannot be reissued.