A medical-cannabis dispensary could be coming to the City of Sonora.
The Sonora Planning Commission will hold a public hearing during a meeting that starts at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to consider an application by Jeff Muzio, of Hazy Bulldog Farms LLC, who wants to open a dispensary at 1243 Mono Way.
“This is the first medicinal cannabis dispensary that has come before the planning commission,” said Rachelle Kellogg, the city’s community development director.
In January, the Sonora City Council adopted an ordinance to regulate certain cannabis businesses.
Cultivation for any sort of commercial purposes — whether recreational or medicinal — remains outlawed, though the ordinance allowed for a limited number of medicinal dispensaries, testing laboratories and manufacturing facilities.
Dispensaries that sell recreational marijuana are also not allowed under the ordinance.
Muzio, of Sonora, said he started the process of applying for a development agreement and use permit with the city directly after the ordinance passed.
He said he moved to the city about five years ago from San Mateo with his wife and two young children because he believed it’s a better place to raise a family.
The ordinance required any potential dispensary owners to go through an extensive vetting process that included putting down a deposit of $25,000 to cover the costs for city staff time and consultants.
Muzio said he made the payment in June and has worked extensively with City Administrator Tim Miller and City Attorney Douglas White to hammer out the details of the agreement.
They want to know every little bit of information, how we’re going to track it in the future, and everything about my past,” he said. “I think it’s resulted in a very good system for Sonora. The extra bit of time it took, from my point of view, they really seem to have wrapped up a nice end product.”
The dispensary would only be able to sell to people with a valid recommendation from a doctor for using medicinal cannabis.
Muzio said he spent most of his life working in construction and has grown medical cannabis as a caregiver legally through the state’s rules for several years.
The proposed location for the dispensary is not within 600 feet of a school, youth center, day care, church, or park, as required under the city’s ordinance.
Muzio said he anticipates there could be some cultural pushback to his proposal, but he plans to keep the business operating discreetly to not disturb the surrounding community.
“It will be kind of out of the way and, hopefully, most people won’t even notice it,” he said. “I won’t be blasting posters about it all around town. I’ll try to do what the people of Sonora want while trying to provide medicine to the community.”
Regarding safety concerns, Muzio said he’s working with the Sonora Police Department on a security plan and hiring a security firm.
Muzio will also have to pay a monthly fee to the city of no less than $10,000 per month, or 5 percent of gross receipts from its operations on a monthly basis, to offset or mitigate any potential impacts of the project on the community, according to a staff report.
The commission could vote whether to approve his application for a use permit and recommend approval of the development agreement to the council, which will have to give final approval in order for the potential business to move forward.
Foothill Care Collective was a former medical marijuana dispensary that briefly operated in 2011 in the building where Muzio’s business is proposed. It and two other dispensaries operating in the county at the time were raided and shut down in May of that year following a coordinated sting by local law enforcement agencies.
Multiple people who were part of or worked for the three dispensaries were arrested and charged with illegally selling marijuana, though they argued that they were operating in accordance with state law at the time.
All of the people who were arrested had their cases dismissed two years later by the Tuolumne County District Attorney’s Office, which cited court rulings in regards to medical marijuana that had made the case difficult to prosecute.
The meeting on Tuesday will be held in the council’s chambers at City Hall, 94 N. Washington St.
Contact Alex MacLean at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 588-4530.