Last-ditch effort

Loose collective stages late opposition to law banning commercial cannabis

Samuel Monteon, owner of a local medicinal cannabis-delivery business, is leading an effort to overturn the Chico City Council’s ban on commercial cannabis.

Samuel Monteon, owner of a local medicinal cannabis-delivery business, is leading an effort to overturn the Chico City Council’s ban on commercial cannabis.

Photo by Howard Hardee

Less than a month ago, Samuel Monteon was alarmed to learn about a new local law set to go into effect today (Dec. 7), which could put his medicinal cannabis delivery service, Fire Pharmaceuticals, out of business.

The Chico City Council’s conservative majority had been pushing the ordinance banning commercial cannabis and all outdoor grows for months, but Monteon first heard about the law after its final reading on Nov. 7—meaning he had missed the opportunity to speak up. He felt blindsided.

“Truth be told, I should have been attending these council meetings,” he told the CN&R. “I had no idea this was going on; I really didn’t. In my opinion, it was secretive, but it’s been a hard lesson for me as a young entrepreneur that I should be involved with political decisions that may affect my business.”

Monteon may have been in the dark, but he isn’t alone. He estimates the law will affect some 40 local cannabis collectives and delivery businesses, so he started organizing meetings and drumming up opposition. He’s since formed a loose collective that’s pushing a last-minute referendum effort, circulating a petition calling for the repeal of the city’s ordinance and to allow dispensary and delivery services in town. In addition to petitioning at farmers’ markets, the group has been blasting the word on social media and delivery drivers have been gathering signatures at patients’ homes.

Monteon admits the effort is a long shot. As of Tuesday, the group had gathered about 3,700 signatures, but they were scrambling to double that to be on the safe side by the deadline today (Dec. 7). They need to secure 5,000 verifiable signatures of registered voters to get the measure on the June ballot.

Still, the group made a strong showing during the Chico City Council meeting on Tuesday (Dec. 5), when more than a dozen people spoke against the law during business from the floor. They framed the ordinance as overly restrictive, especially given that a majority of local voters favored Proposition 64, and urged for a thoughtful regulatory scheme rather than outright prohibition.

“Instead of being soft or hard on drugs, you can be smart on drugs,” Rosemary Febbo told the council.

Since the matter was brought up outside of the scheduled agenda—and the law has already been passed—the council took no action and offered no comments.

If the referendum effort is unsuccessful, Monteon would risk penalties by continuing to operate his business in Chico. But for personal reasons, he said, it would be tough to move to a city with a less restrictive stance on cannabis.

“It’s hard for me to say I’ll just leave, because I have patients I really do care about,” he said, adding that many of his customers are home-bound or bed-ridden. “When you’re delivering to people once or twice a month, you really get to know people who are using cannabis for a better quality of life—to eat when they’re not hungry, to help them sleep, to calm their irrational thoughts. Am I just going to leave and hope they all figure it out for themselves?”

In other council news, the panel voted unanimously to update the city’s ADA Transition Plan under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

With the help of a citizens’ committee, the city identified the area along West Ninth Avenue between The Esplanade and Mangrove Avenue as a high priority for accessibility improvements.

The area is seen as a potential extension of the greater Esplanade Corridor Safety and Accessibility Improvement Project, said Councilman Randall Stone, who is a member of the citizens’ committee. Eventually, the project could provide people with disabilities—not to mention cyclists and pedestrians—easier transit from the avenues to downtown and Bikeway 99, the city’s major north-to-south thoroughfare for bicyclists.

But it’s all just a plan, for now.

“We’re talking years out before any of this comes to fruition,” Stone said. “We still need a funding source.”