Updated

HANFORD — The city of Hanford will soon have its own division centered around cannabis operations, with its own high-level management position.

Cannabis operations division

On Tuesday, Council discussed annual fees for commercial medical cannabis business permits and establishing a cannabis operations division.

Community Development Director Darlene Mata said until a tax measure is created, permit fees are a way to ensure full cost recovery for regulating the cannabis businesses once they start in the city.

The permit fees are as follows:

• $32,000 each for campus, cultivation, manufacturing and distribution

• $15,000 for lab testing

Mata said lab testing would require less cost per permit because there would most likely be less enforcement required for that area.

Mata said the staffing required to regulate the future industry was also examined and presented a proposed budget amendment for the remainder of the fiscal year to establish a new cannabis operations division.

Mata said the planning division currently has one “senior planner” position, which is vacant. She said the city has done two recruitments and has not been able to find a qualified applicant.

The proposal Mata outlined was to eliminate that position and create a new position in the cannabis operations division with the title “principal planner.” She said the position is a higher-level management position with a salary in the $90,000 range.

Because Mata said she doesn’t expect to fill the principal planner position until the middle of 2018, the salary will be funded in part by the cost savings from the vacant senior planner position and the rest would be covered by the allocated cannabis money from the 2018-19 fiscal year.

When the cannabis businesses are up and running, Mata said there will need to be even more positions and staffing allocated to the cannabis operations division. Police Chief Parker Sever said the operation will be evaluated annually and adjusted as needed.

Council voted unanimously, with Councilman Justin Mendes absent, to establish the medical business permit fees and make the necessary budget amendments to establish a cannabis operations division.

Second chances?

Council also discussed possibly allowing the two companies that applied but were not recommended for cannabis permits at the Nov. 7 meeting to repeat the second and third phases of the application process.

This talk took place because Mendes suggested giving the companies that weren’t recommended a second chance through some sort of appeals process.

During the public comment at the beginning of the meeting, Rand Martin, who was at the meeting on behalf of medical cannabis company Caliva, told council that the state’s foray into the cannabis business needs to be “squeaky-clean.”

Martin commended the city’s rigorous application process, and asked council to only move forward with the permits they already granted and to not give the businesses that were not recommended a second chance.

Jacob Yparrea, co-owner of Bridge the Gap Solutions — one of the cannabis companies that was not recommended to receive a permit from the city — made a public comment encouraging Council to allow for a second chance opportunity. He said a computer error on the application and a poor interview were not an accurate representation of his business and asked Council to allow them to redo the application process.

Mata said because the application process had strict rules and was merit-based, allowing a repeat of the process would change the whole procedure that Council had previously approved as set standards.

She told council that she did not advise letting any company redo the process because she wanted to leave no room for error.

The four members of Council present at the meeting agreed with Mata, saying the application process was fair and shouldn’t be changed at this point in time.

“I don’t see a necessity in changing the whole process,” Councilman Martin Devine said. “It just wouldn’t be worth it — it’s just too much work [that] everybody has put into this.”

The companies who were not recommended for cannabis permits can apply next year when the application period is opened again.

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