|Photo: The Weed Business|
|That looks a lot better than slot machines to me.|
A study funded by casino developers says that a large-scale marijuana farm is the only other economically viable option for a hard-luck San Francisco Bay area town, as officials consider the fate of a major strip of waterfront property.
Environmental consultants evaluated 28 different proposed uses submitted by the public for the land. They determined that only a medical marijuana cultivation facility could generate enough revenue to pay market price for the 422-acre property in Richmond, California, reports Katherine Tam of the Contra Costa Times.
The plan calls for medical marijuana to be grown, packaged, stored and sold within the century-old buildings where the Winehaven winery operated in the pre-Prohibition days of the early 1900s. According to the study, city coffers would swell with $3.2 million a year in additional tax revenue, under a five percent tax rate, depending on how much the cannabis is worth.
“Only medical cannabis would result in an ability to pay market price for the Point Molate property,” the report concludes.
|Photo: Anne Brice/Richmond Confidential|
|Point Molate in Richmond, California, could be the future of a $1.2 billion casino — or a big pot farm.|
But of course, a giant pot farm would come with its own set of legal hurdles.
And the report itself — especially since it’s funded by the group proposing the casino — is drawing plenty of critics who say the only reason it is proposing a pot farm is to make the casino project look better by comparison.
The report is part of a process which began in August, when the city of Richmond asked for ideas as alternatives to the $1.2 billion casino-hotel resort. The casino project is proposed by developer Upstream and the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians with financial backing from Yocha Deha Wintun Nation, which owns the Cache Creek Casino Resort.
Design, Community & Environment of Berkeley was picked to study the alternatives and decide which are the most workable. The selection process was overseen by the city with input from Upstream, which funded the $50,000 contract.
|Photo: Kerri Connolly/Richmond Confidential|
|Condemned houses and historic buildings line the streets of Point Molate.|
Critics argued that the alternatives study was flawed from the start. No developer with a legitimate plan would submit it as long as the city is under contract with Upstream, they said.
The casino proposal from an American Indian tribe for Point Molate in Richmond was turned down by 57.5 percent voters earlier this month, but the measure was only advisory.
“We do want development at Point Molate,” said new City Council member Corky Boozé, “but we want it without a casino. We can do better than just a casino.”
Richmond Already Has A Pot Tax
Richmond’s citizens are already on board with the idea of enlarging city coffers with marijuana money. In the same November 2 election where they said no to the casino idea, city voters approved a five percent tax on the city’s medical marijuana dispensaries, reports Kerri Connolly at the Richmond Confidential.
With the passage of Measure V, voters authorized the city to tax the income of pot shops, capitalizing on the lucrative industry. Bay neighbors Oakland and Berkeley have already imposed similar taxes.
Revenue raised by the pot tax will go toward municipal services like fire and police departments, which have seen statewide budget cuts.
The city ordinance currently allows up to three medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in Richmond.
The measure passed in Richmond will require that all medical marijuana businesses pay a five percent tax on gross receipts, in addition to the city’s business license fee of $234.10 a year.
Cannabis dispensaries will also pay an additional $46.80 per employee for the first 25 employees, and $40.10 for each employee after that.
Meanwhile, Back At The (Proposed) Casino
Upstream, based in Emeryville, is not interested in building a marijuana operation at Point Molate because of legal concerns, according to managing partner Jim Levine.
Point Molate has been mostly vacant since the Naval Fuel Depot there closed in 1995. Although extensive environmental clean-up would be required, city leaders see the waterfront property as a place where much-needed economic development could bring jobs and tax revenue to the city.
A public meeting is scheduled for Wednesday to discuss the report’s findings. It will be held at 7 p.m. in the multipurpose room at 440 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond, California.