Natural Supplements, a full-fledged cannabis growing, manufacturing, retailing and distribution business, got the go-ahead from Antioquia City Council this week.
The council approved the operating agreement in a 3-2 vote opposed by council members Lori Ogorchock and Mike Barbanica.
City Attorney Thomas Smith said the operating agreement would benefit the city in several ways, including annual fee increases for the first four years.
Under a 10-year operating contract that includes two five-year extensions, the operator will pay the city a percentage of total revenue each month.
Another benefit to the city, Smith said, comes from the social equity program that comes with the deal for businesses to support local nonprofits.
“Social equity programs give businesses a chance to give back to their communities,” says Smith.
Under the contract, the operator chose the Rubicon program. This is an anti-poverty program that provides labor services to justice-affected job seekers. Many of the job seekers were previously imprisoned and affected by the war on drugs.
However, some council members questioned the nonprofit selection process and suggested other nonprofits might benefit.
Alderman Lori Ogorchock said he appreciates Rubicon’s efforts, but would like to see the list of nonprofits and let the council decide.
“We are looking at nonprofits for seniors, veterans and special needs such as Veterans Affairs Center, Meals on Wheels, Stand Down on the Delta and White Pony Express,” she said. “So there are some people who would love to see those lists come back.”
Deputy Mayor Tamisha Torres-Walker, a member of the Cannabis Standing Committee, also questioned the process and said she would like to see the public more involved in the choice.
“The purpose of these equity funds is to really clean up the effects of the war on drugs and the criminalization of cannabis and disenfranchisement of entire communities as a result of the war on drugs. And criminalization,” she said.
“The equity program it is supposed to fund is believed to impact the Black and Brown community,” added Torres Walker.
However, Mayor Lamar Thorpe revealed that the city initially set up an equity program with cannabis businesses that would be responsible for selecting nonprofits and working with them to support the program.
“We took that approach because the city didn’t have the capacity to implement social equity programs like we have in Oakland, Sacramento and San Francisco,” he said.
But if the cannabis commission wants to change the process by which nonprofits are selected, it can put the proposal back in Congress, he said.
The Council first approved Natural Supplements’ business use permit and design review nearly a year ago.
Ripon-based Natural Supplements plans to construct two buildings. One is 11,200 square feet and the other is 19,500 square feet at 2100-2300 Wilbur Ave. No date has been given for when construction will be completed.