Retail cannabis in Woodland back under discussion


The potential for retail cannabis sales allowed under Woodland city code is once again under consideration, with some city councilors seeking comment from residents on whether or not they would approve changing the current prohibition.

During its Sept. 18 meeting, the Woodland City Council discussed polling residents about their opinion on retail cannabis sales in city limits. Current city code prohibits such business in all zoning designations, though a change to be presented to the Woodland Planning Commission next month would permit retail sales in a certain type of commercial zone.

Councilor Melissa Doughty brought up the idea of a survey. She got the idea after hearing over the course of the more than six years she’s lived in Woodland that the council had always been a “hard no” on cannabis in the city.

Upon her appointment to the council in 2022, Doughty heard from constituents asking about any vote the city had done regarding cannabis retail sales. The only time Woodland residents voted on cannabis was in 2012 during Initiative 502, which legalized recreational use statewide.

In that vote, 52% of Woodland voted against the initiative, with a difference of 87 votes between those for and against it, Doughty said.

Past councils have voted against cannabis retail. In 2019, the council unanimously voted to clarify its existing prohibition on such sales, though only two of the seven councilors from that time are still serving.

“There will be another vote soon, and I don’t feel like with the numbers we have, we have accurate data to represent our town, and the views of our town,” Doughty said.

Councilor Aaron Alderman also supported a survey. He felt if he didn’t hear from residents, he would break a promise he made when he was appointed and make him a hypocrite.

“This is not a vote to legalize it or not. I want to know what the people in this town that I grew up in, that I love more than any place in the world, I want to speak for them like I said I was going to,” Alderman said.

Following a recommendation from the Planning Commission, the City Council will have its own vote in November to allow or continue denying retail cannabis sales, Woodland Community Development Director Travis Goddard said.

Doughty wished to see a survey complete before the council voted.

“I think we need a better understanding of what our citizens are asking of us before we make a decision on our own accord,” Doughty said.

Doughty said one survey per household could be distributed.

Though he could appreciate the outreach, Councilor Monte Smith was concerned over the nature of the survey.

“I have two registered voters in my house,” Smith said.

He didn’t believe single-household responses would paint an accurate picture of resident’s opinions.

Smith said, instead, he would support an advisory ballot measure for all registered voters. The earliest such a vote could come up would be in February.

Woodland City Administrator Peter Boyce estimated mailing a survey would cost about $3,000, though that did not take into account the cost of staff time. On the other extreme, a ballot measure such as an advisory vote could potentially cost much more. Woodland Mayor Will Finn recalled, in a 2015 April special election, the city ran a lone ballot measure, which cost the city $50,000.

Finn said there were already other ballot measures on the February election, which would reduce the city’s expense.

Councilor Terry Hall was not in favor of surveying Woodlanders at all.

“Surveys and polls are always slanted toward the pollster’s opinion,” Hall said.

Hall said the council was charged to decide outside of the sway of polls. He was staunchly against allowing retail sales in the city.

“This is not good for children. It is not good for the community. It’s not good for our people,” Hall said.

Though the survey idea did not receive enough support by the whole council, councilors directed city staff to explore the potential of an advisory vote and what it may cost. That information will be brought back to the council at a later meeting.