By JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Cotati’s only medical cannabis dispensary won permission Wednesday to expand — but most of its growth will come in areas other than marijuana, its owner said.
The City Council followed most staff recommendations in approving on a 4-0 vote Mercy Wellness’s request to change restrictions in its use permit.
The 2-year-old dispensary, which had been limited to 1,000 square feet of space, will be allowed to expand to 3,500 square feet, though the area used to actually dispense marijuana to customers remains capped at 800 square feet.
The larger space would accommodate services such as yoga classes and massage therapy, said Greg Lucas, Mercy Wellness’s owner.
“We’ve always envisioned this as a wellness center and in our small space we can’t do that,” he said.
Lucas said he has no immediate plans to expand, but that he wants the flexibility to do it when the time is right.
The council, swayed by Vice-Mayor Pat Gilardi’s arguments, balked at Lucas’s request to lift the current limit of 1,100 patients a month.
“That was something that gave the public reassurance,” said Gilardi, recalling the 2007 battle over the city’s medical marijuana ordinance, which permits only one dispensary in town.
The council on Wednesday clarified the limit, saying it applied to “active patients” who visited the dispensary at least once a month, and that it did not mean individual visits per customer.
“We can live with that,” Lucas said. Since the business opened, the most individual customers recorded in any one month has been 346.
The council approved other requests, including that Mercy be allowed to keep 30 pounds of marijuana in stock, up from 15 pounds, and that it can put up more signs, though none can advertise marijuana.
The dispensary is one of 11 in Sonoma County. Three others are in cities, two in Santa Rosa and one in Sebastopol. The rest are in unincorporated areas of the county.
Councilwoman Janet Orchard was absent.
You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or firstname.lastname@example.org.