East Bay News

East Bay seniors push city to allow cannabis dispensary

WALNUT CREEK — Seniors in an East Bay retirement community are pushing for a new local cannabis dispensary but the city of Walnut Creek remains opposed.

A vocal group believes a new change at the top could mean a win in their fight for a dispensary.

They say the outgoing mayor thwarted their efforts to pave the way for a brick-and-mortar store.

The city of Walnut Creek greenlighted cannabis business HerbNJoy in 2020. It can deliver recreational cannabis products to residents but is not allowed to open a storefront dispensary.

“If that does not happen, it’s extremely difficult to survive,” said HerbNJoy owner Falguni Dave.

Dave believes a brick-and-mortar shop close to the seniors community of Rossmoor would help residents.

“Customers want to come to you. They want to see your face. They want to talk to you, sit there and then, maybe, purchase a product,” Dave said.

Renee Lee isn’t shy about how marijuana eases her pains.

“It just helps with anxiety, pains, yeah — life — dealing with life and muscle movement,” Lee said.

The 70-year-old struggled to wean herself from countless prescription drugs until she began smoking cannabis 20 years ago.

“It helped me to get off all those meds,” Lee said.

National surveys show people over the age of 65 are the fastest-growing group of cannabis users in the country.

Dave says in-person exchanges at a storefront dispensary would especially help those who are not well-informed about the complexities of cannabis products.

“They shouldn’t have to drive where they don’t want — shouldn’t be forced to have people come to their homes or have to do it online,” Lee said.

“They can lobby all they want. We need somebody who wants to take on the business before it can be anything,” said Walnut Creek mayor Loella Haskew.

Haskew is the new Walnut Creek mayor and has been at the helm since the beginning of December.

Armed robberies of dispensaries across California is a concern.

“I don’t know that it’s a fear and I don’t know that I expect everything to be terrible in Walnut Creek. I expect it to be quite the opposite and mostly it is. But it is a concern,” Haskew said.

In 2007, only about 0.4 percent of people age 65 and older in the United States had reported using cannabis in the past year.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, that number rose to almost 3 percent by 2016.

As of 2022, it was at more than 8 percent.

Lee, who founded a marijuana club — the second largest behind the Democratic club at the nearly 10,000-resident community of Rossmoor — is pushing for three pot dispensaries in Walnut Creek.

“The Valley, Rossmoor, the people who live here, really want access and they want cannabis,” Lee said.

“Without the educational part of the wellness center — that’s what my vision is — this is just another delivery service. This is just another weed business and that is exactly what Walnut Creek doesn’t want,” Dave said.

“They have really made it difficult for us to consume cannabis the way it should be consumed, which is easy-access and a lot of education,” Lee said.

Lee continues to battle.

The Department of Cannabis Control says more than 60 percent of California’s municipalities still ban the sale of legal marijuana.

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