The city of Pittsburg took another step this week in what has been a slow process to welcome cannabis businesses to town, unveiling zones and rules under which such enterprises would be allowed.

On Monday, the Pittsburg City Council outlined four industrial zones in the north end of the city where cannabis retail, cultivation, testing and manufacturing can be located. No cannabis businesses are yet open in the city, while neighboring Antioch has already seen the opening of two of the largest dispensaries in the Bay Area.

Jordan Davis, the city’s director of community and economic development, outlined for the council how staff went about crafting the new ordinance, which states: No commercial cannabis business shall be located within 600 feet of an existing house of worship, legally established school, club or lodge used exclusively as a youth center, city-owned park space which is open to the public, or library, as measured from the main entrance of the cannabis business to the nearest access point of the other use.

The proposal added that no cannabis retail business may be located less than 1,000 feet from any legally established school, as measured by the shortest distance from the main entrance of the cannabis business to the campus boundary.

After some debate during the meeting, the council amended the staff’s proposed wording to include “religious assemblies” in the 600-foot buffer space and cut out an exception for microbusinesses. The council also added a requirement for a four-fifths majority council vote to amend the ordinance in the future.

Mayor Merl Craft and Councilmember Jelani Killings expressed their desires to protect the rights of existing and future churches who may be opposed to cannabis. Killings noted, “caution is advisable” and expressed his fears that “cannabis is the next Big Tobacco.”

One public speaker, Randy Baugh, urged the council not to pen cannabis retailers in an industrial ghetto. Other council members predicted that cannabis sales will soon spread to mainline retailers like Walgreens and CVS.

Police Chief Brian Addington joined the meeting to express his support for the ordinance, noting that cannabis businesses generally employ extensive security staff and systems and historically generate little added crime.

Tougher fines for fireworks

In other business, Addington strongly urged an update to the city’s fireworks ordinance, citing police call data from June 27 through July 4, when city police officers responded to 490 fireworks calls, issued 18 citations for fireworks violations, made one arrest for sales of illegal fireworks, and seized 50 pounds of fireworks. On July 4, fire and police personnel responded to 40 fire-related calls for service, which included multiple grass/brush fires, three structure fires and one vehicle fire.

The chief noted that the current ordinance called for a $100 fine for a first offense and “has hardly made a dent” in enforcement. The council approved an amended ordinance that calls for a $1,000 fine for each offense and added “responsible parties” as liable for citations.

The new ordinance defines them as, “A person that owns, rents, leases, or otherwise has possession of, or is in immediate control of, a residence or other private property or a vessel. A person that organizes, supervises, sponsors, conducts, allows, controls, or controls access to, the possession, manufacture, sale, offer for sale, use, or discharge of fireworks at a residence or other private property or on a vessel.”