Cannabis business wants to plant roots in Weed

Mike Meyer

The City of Weed is being asked to enter a development agreement with a cannabis-growing project trying to gain a toehold in south Weed.

The project hit a snag in July when the Weed Planning Commission voted 3-2 to deny the development agreement long-sought by Shasta-Jefferson Growth Businesses Inc., the developer. Despite the commission’s no vote, it is the city council that ultimately makes that decision.

A rainbow stretches over the Weed Arch in Weed, California.

Progress was further delayed at Thursday’s city council meeting when the matter was put off until September. The delay was caused because complete information for the project was not available to the planning commission for the July meeting. The follow-up planning meeting to review the missing information will be held next Wednesday.

Shasta-Jefferson wants the agreement with the city to insure that future changes to ordinances and zoning code cannot derail the project approved under previous rules and codes. The company has spent about two years pursuing the agreement with the city.

Marijuana plant

“A development agreement freezes ordinances and rules that apply today. This is so that, after the millions have been spent on a project, changes to the ordinances that weren’t in force when the project started and that might be detrimental don’t suddenly appear,” said Tim Rundel, Weed City Manager.

“This project has the ability to bring approximately 300 jobs to our community, and all of those jobs are mandated to be $20 per hour minimum wage as per the terms of the Development Agreement,” said Raymond Strack, CEO of Shasta Grown. “In addition, the project has potential city revenue into the millions of dollars, alleviating budget constraints that hamper our communities ability to provide robust services.  In addition, our company is building a multi-tenant non cannabis retail strip mall on Vista Drive east of Grocery Outlet. This project is a kick start to the sort of economic development our community desperately needs.”

A handout from Shasta Grown, a proposed cannabis business, that was distributed during Weed's City Council meeting on Aug. 13, 2020.

The council’s delay did not prevent a public hearing on the matter. Nine speakers entered the city council chambers to address the five councilors. Because of social distancing, most of the public stood in a back room or outside where they listened to the meeting over loud speakers.

Comments were meant to address the development agreement, but the speakers’ focus was on the worthiness of the project itself. Of the nine speakers, seven welcomed the Shasta-Jefferson project.

Loren Adams told the council that Shasta-Jefferson’s project would bring good paying jobs to Weed, which would have a ripple effect on the local economy. “At Roseburg, we did a curtailment last November. We’re still down a shift. You go to the website, you can’t find a job today. The bowling alley is leaving. But we can open this (economy) up and allow some people to get their on their feet. They’d be able to buy homes, then we’ll  ... have HVAC people come in, carpenters will come in, plumbers will come in, landscapers. How you vote can help the working class,” Adams said.

Christine Meadows encouraged the council to vote no. She said the project is wrong for Weed and disrespects the town’s name. 

“My husband and I have kids, we work here and pay taxes,” Meadows said. “I feel the location and the development plan are not in the interest of Weed citizens or the environment. The majority of Weed citizens don’t endorse the project. The council should take Weed’s history and legacy into account. Don’t make a mockery of our town’s name.”

If the council approves the development agreement, Shasta-Jefferson has one year to purchase the property for the facility, according to Ryan Reid, outside counsel hired by the city. The cannabis complex would wrap around the Grocery Outlet, with frontage on both Black Butte Drive and East Vista Drive.

“The development agreement becomes effective when the sale is completed. At that point, the council can’t say no to cannabis, he would have the right to develop,” Reid explained, referring to Strack. After the sale, the company would have two years to develop the details of the project and have an environmental impact report conducted.

“The key point is, the council can approve or disapprove the project based on the CEQA report (California Environmental Quality Act),” Reid said. “If these milestones are reached, “they can begin development, and the city can monitor its progress.”