School district issues opposition statement regarding cannabis store location

| January 14, 2020 | 0 Comments

Ahead of Wednesday’s final vote approving a marijuana retail store at 3501 Alhambra Avenue the Martinez Unified School District has released a statement opposing the locations.

Artist’s rendering of Embarc:, located at 3501 Alhambra Avenue, formerly California Collectible Books.

“The District is not in opposition to the City of Martinez opening a retail cannabis store, however, the proposed location, just feet from our Adult School and in such close proximity to Alhambra High School is not the appropriate location for this business,” said CJ Cammack, Superintendent of Schools for Martinez Unified.

“Additionally, the current location may limit the potential uses of the Martinez Adult School property. In prior years, the Adult School housed a preschool, and more recently overflow parking for Alhambra High School, both of which the District could not operate in good conscience if a cannabis dispensary is opened on this shared property border.”

The statement concludes, “The School District will consider any and all remedies available to carry out the obligations owed to the students and citizens of our community and to protect all rights and uses of School District property.”

Below is the full text.

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MARTINEZ UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT OPPOSES PROPOSED LOCATION OF RETAIL CANNABIS STORE/DISPENSARY 

The Martinez Unified School District is in opposition to the location of a proposed retail cannabis store/dispensary slated for approval by the City of Martinez, City Council. On Wednesday, January 15, 2020, at 7:00 PM, the City Council is slated to approve permits for Embarc, a retail cannabis store, to be located at 3501 Alhambra Avenue, Martinez CA. This location shares property borders with Martinez Unified School District and is located only 1,000 feet from Alhambra High School which serves nearly 1,200 students. 

“The District is not in opposition to the City of Martinez opening a retail cannabis store, however, the proposed location, just feet from our Adult School and in such close proximity to Alhambra High School is not the appropriate location for this business,” said CJ Cammack, Superintendent of Schools for Martinez Unified. “Although students won’t directly access the products of the dispensary due to strict industry regulations, there are concerns about having any business on a shared property border that requires extensive security provisions and multiple security guards. Additionally, the current location may limit the potential uses of the Martinez Adult School property. In prior years, the Adult School housed a preschool, and more recently overflow parking for Alhambra High School, both of which the District could not operate in good conscience if a cannabis dispensary is opened on this shared property border.” 

Martinez Unified has recently provided the City of Martinez a letter of protest regarding the City Council potentially awarding a conditional certificate to Embarc. Included in that letter are key points of the District’s opposition to this location. Martinez Unified is not opposing the City of Martinez’s right to provide the community with a legal cannabis store/dispensary. Rather, the District’s opposition is focused on the proposed location, specifically the extreme proximity to District property, including both Martinez Adult School and Alhambra High School. 

As noted in the District’s letter of protest, key points of opposition include: 

  • While the requirement that potential cannabis dispensaries not be located near sensitive uses, including schools, is contained in the City’s ordinance, there is no indication that such proximity was a factor in the City’s “rigorous review process” of the four cannabis dispensary proposals. The School District would expect that, even outside of the 600-foot buffer, the nearer a proposed dispensary is placed to a school in the City, that proposal’s desirability would be lessened, and this would be reflected in the scores of such proposals near school properties, but it does not appear this was a factor taken into consideration by the proposal reviewers. 
  • The School District feels that the City’s express exclusion of Main and Ferry Streets from the siting of potential cannabis dispensaries, while not considering as possible exclusion zones the portion of Alhambra Avenue near the high school, or any other main roadway arteries for that matter, was a gross oversight by the Council. In doing so, the City is favoring the preservation of its downtown businesses over the safety of its young people. 
  • Finally, the City’s preferred applicant, Embarc, has been chosen by the County Board of Supervisors to apply for a use permit to establish a cannabis dispensary at 3503 Pacheco Boulevard, less than two (2) miles away from their proposed location on Alhambra Avenue. It is the School District’s understanding that the City, in its ordinance, sought to restrict the number of dispensaries that open in the immediate vicinity of the City, yet one vendor, Embarc, may end up with two dispensaries within two miles of Alhambra High School if the City awards the conditional certificate being considered on January 15th. 

In the face of the District’s opposition, and despite the Martinez City Council acknowledging, on November 20, 2019, that the School District had not been informed of the potential siting of a cannabis dispensary just 1,000 feet away from Alhambra High School and on a shared property boundary with its adult education facility and maintenance/operations facility, the Council voted 4-0 in favor of moving Embarc forward as the potential recipient of the conditional certificate. By many appearances, it seems the City Council is ignoring the concerns of the Martinez Unified School District, a valuable and significant part of the community, in favor of other interests by selecting this location. The City Council had three other qualified applicants which all could provide revenue to the City and community access for a legal retail cannabis store, without infringing on the District’s property use, and without placing it in such close proximity to Alhambra High School and Martinez Adult School. 

The School District will consider any and all remedies available to carry out the obligations owed to the students and citizens of our community and to protect all rights and uses of School District property. The School District asks the City Council to reconsider awarding a conditional certificate to Embarc on January 15th, if their proposal continues to involve placement of a cannabis dispensary within the immediate vicinity of the School District’s properties. 

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