Mayor Lee Brand vetoed the Fresno City Council’s plan for recreational cannabis business regulations on Monday.

The council long debated the plan, which included several social equity components, for stores to conduct business in Fresno.

Portrait of Fresno Mayor Lee Brand

“While I believe that legal adult-use cannabis sales in the city of Fresno are inevitable, I also believe we have a duty to be transparent and open in how that legislation is brought to constituents.” — Mayor Lee Brand’s veto message

The final vote took place on Dec. 12, passing 4-3. A veto needs five council votes to overturn.

But, councilman Miguel Arias — one of the co-sponsors of the business license plan — does not believe the veto will delay the eventual opening of recreational cannabis shops.

Brand Cites Reasons for Veto

“While I believe that legal adult-use cannabis sales in the city of Fresno are inevitable, I also believe we have a duty to be transparent and open in how that legislation is brought to constituents,” Brand wrote in his veto message.

Among the specific reasons for the veto, Brand cited a desire for a supermajority (five votes) approval; to have locations maintain security video recordings for 90 days (now seven days); for the police department to recommend changes in security language; and opposition to a social equity rule requiring a labor peace agreement.

Brand wrote “having a workforce of employees who belong to a labor union are in conflict and could make it more difficult to award social equity licenses to the most deserving applicants.”

Responded Arias: “I’m kind of perplexed by his veto message.”

Arias said he plans to meet with Brand on Tuesday to learn more about the mayor’s objections.

Brand had up to 10 days to enact a veto, the fourth of his term and all issued this year. Monday was the last day for the mayor to exercise his veto power.

The council overrode a veto in August, upholding its decision to prohibit retroactive raises to employees giving notice that they are leaving.

Brand was not available for further comment Monday.

Arias: No Expected Delays

The council passed an ordinance in December 2018 that allowed for recreational cannabis stores to be licensed, permitting up to 14 retail and 16 commercial licenses. Brand did not issue a veto, and the ordinance became city law.

portrait of Miguel Arias

I’m kind of perplexed by his veto message.” — councilman Miguel Arias

The vote this month was the nuts and bolts of how such stores should operate. Up to two retail and two commercial licenses would require social equity components. The regulations would require minimum standards for owners and employees. Among them: being locally-based, low-income, or legally punished for prior cannabis-related crimes.

Despite the veto, Arias does not think it will cause any more delays. The cannabis license plan is still under environmental review, which is expected to be completed by June.

“We’re still months away from having any practical impact,” Arias said. “There’s no practical effect on the timeline.”

Arias hopes to have any issues resolved by then.

The council has 30 days to override the veto. The next scheduled meeting is Jan. 16, when Arias is expected to take over as council president.

Veto Memo

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