City of trees? Claremont starting discussions on legalizing commercial cannabis

A person with purple nail polish lights a joint out a window.
In a city whose stance towards cannabis has fluctuated in recent years, calls have been made for community feedback regarding a move to implement dispensaries. (HuxleyAnn Huefner • The Student Life)

Budding conversations among Claremont residents may lead to legal dispensaries within city limits. Though personal recreational use is allowed, city leaders say the ultimate decision as to whether to welcome the commercial sale of cannabis will come down to community feedback. 

The continuing shift in Claremont’s stance towards cannabis use follows a 2021 city council request that city staff engage the community on cannabis regulation possibilities. 

The city held two cannabis community workshop meetings March 26 and 30, where a cannabis consultant hired by the city weighed the pros and cons of implementing commercial cannabis, fielding questions from community members. Residents were encouraged to comment on concerns they might have about the change.

An online survey accessible through the city’s webpage was also used to gather community input.

City Management Analyst Alex Cousins is the lead staff member for Claremont’s cannabis outreach process. He stressed the importance community input will have in the decision to make changes to the existing prohibition of commercial cannabis. 

“As anticipated we have received a mixture of feedback from both those in favor and those against cannabis,” Cousins said. “We are currently compiling and analyzing the results of the cannabis community survey. The results will be presented to Council sometime in the next few months.”

In 2006, Claremont officially adopted a ban on cannabis. With the passing of California’s Proposition 64 looming in 2016, the city preemptively banned commercial marijuana businesses. 

However, the city updated its ordinance to allow for the personal use, cultivation and delivery of cannabis in the city that same year. The city extended its ban on commercial cannabis again in 2019. 

CMC professor and Claremont resident Zachary Courser said he wasn’t surprised at Claremont’s hesitancy to allow commercial cannabis within its city limits. Since the city’s time as a dry town during prohibition, he noted that Claremont residents have generally been wary about how more liberal policies on substances could impact the community. 

“I think there’s still, particularly among older residents, a kind of understanding that they want to keep the town sort of quiet and genteel. I think there’s also anxiety about the colleges,” he said. “Will this open up some kind of floodgates to the students buying and using this substance? Will it change the character of the village?”

Courser added that if dispensaries come to town, it is likely the number of licenses granted could be limited. 

“If there was a path to implementation, I would imagine it would be very narrow, that is to say, very few licenses would be considered,” Courser said. “If [dispensaries] did manage to pass the threshold of the council, and they would allow the local option, whatever is allowed, I would imagine would be fairly narrow and circumscribed.”

Hannah Stark SC ’23 said she doesn’t think a dispensary in Claremont will lead to a significant rise in cannabis use, especially at the colleges. 

“I can’t imagine that it’d be any different than opening a coffee shop at the rate that people use here. Maybe it’ll make it more accessible to people who like to smoke less, but otherwise I can’t imagine that it would result in any sort of huge spike in marijuana consumption,” she said. 

Stark is excited with the prospect of a dispensary coming to Claremont and noted it would be more convenient to support a local business than driving farther to other towns.  

The economic benefits of commercial cannabis is enticing for Claremont, as the city would receive higher tax revenues from local dispensaries. Courser characterized the impact of dispensaries on a town like Claremont as that of an “economic miracle.” 

“It’s tantalizing for some communities who are seeking to increase revenues to think about marijuana dispensaries because it’s difficult for California cities to do much to raise revenues,” Courser said. “And this is kind of seen as a way to quickly add to the budget.”

As of now, the city continues to consider public feedback and has not offered any specific proposals. The potential legalization of commercial cannabis is still in its early stages, and may not even be realized if there is enough negative community feedback about the issue. But Cousins has high hopes for the next steps of the process.

“Just like every other project in the City, our community, council and staff have high expectations, cannabis would be no different,” he said.

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