With finances historically tight, the City of Guadalupe will explore whether to ease up on its cannabis ban to bring more revenue into the community.
“This could be the goose that lays, not a golden egg, but maybe a little egg in the sense of income,” Mayor Ariston Julian said.
The council previously voted to ban any cannabis businesses from the city, but agreed to allow deliveries for medical users.
City Administrator Todd Bodem noted that Guadalupe “historically has witnessed extreme financial woes.”
The new 1 percent tax approved by voters in November is expected to bring $600,000 in annual revenue. But Guadalupe needs other funding sources and began exploring options to keep its budget out of the red, recognizing that one-time revenue related to the Pasadera housing project will end at some point.
Since the cannabis issues are highly technical, Bodem said the city sought consultants to help with the process.
The consultant would provide three community meetings, develop a draft ordinance, estimate potential revenue, create a cost-recovery fee study, and handle other aspects of the issue.
Any fee from the consultant would be delayed until cannabis tax revenue begins flowing into the city. Under terms of the contract, however, the fee would be paid sooner if the council decided not to proceed with cannabis.
Bodem said a contingent from Guadalupe visited Lompoc’s cannabis businesses and discovered strict regulations surrounding them.
A veteran law enforcement officer, Guadalupe public safety director Michael Cash said he was “very much impressed” with the dispensaries they visited, especially homegrown stores.
He admitted he had preconceived notions about the stores.
“It looked cleaner than a grocery store,” he said. “It was beautiful inside.”
Cash also noted the presence of armed security plus cameras.
Curious about how much customers spent, he said he grabbed a receipt that had been tossed into a trash can and was amazed at the amount.
The new revenue could be committed to specific needs “like that hole in the wall,” Julian said, noting a damaged area inside the council chambers.
“I think that it’s worth exploring,” added Councilmember Tony Ramirez, who noted that the cannabis industry is heavily regulated and the city could choose where to put the revenue.
“Just exploring does not mean yes,” he said.
Construction at the Pasadera housing development has slowed down, which has affected city revenue, Julian said, adding “we’ve been hammered by COVID.”
He said the city cannot rely solely on cannabis, but should look at it as one more financial source.
In addition to hundreds of homes, Pasadera includes some commercial development that, once built, will bring jobs and more sales tax revenue to the city. That project remains a few years away from development.
Santa Maria has decided not to allow cannabis sales so the closest dispensaries currently are in Lompoc and Grover Beach with plans for another somewhere in the Orcutt area.
Guadalupe resident Shirley Boydstun urged caution.
“I think we need to take a careful look at all of this,” she said, adding that residents’ needs seem to be met with medical deliveries and people allowed to grow up to six plants for personal use.
“We’re kind of meeting the needs now, but I know it’s a tempting opportunity,” she added.