Group behind controversial San Leandro dispensary is also looking at Hayward

HAYWARD
When Stephen Cassidy was the mayor of San Leandro he believed the city’s approval of medical cannabis dispensaries would put children at risk. As legend has it, Cassidy toured the nearby Harborside Health Center in Oakland and his views dramatically changed.

He later tempered his stance by leading the San Leandro City Council to approve just one dispensary permit, not two, as proposed. Cassidy’s move ultimately snubbed his future employer from receiving its permit three years ago, and subsequently might have allowed them to avoid the current controversies that surround the Davis Street Wellness Center in San Leandro.

Among the, issues that have seriously sullied relations between San Leandro city officials and a well-known non-profit associated with the dispensary, and which may give others pause before approving the group’s plans in their cities.

Cassidy is now employed as the in-house counsel for Bloom Innovations, Inc., the group behind the Davis Street Wellness Center. And while he has continually blurred the lines between being a city advocate and ex-mayor, while also serving as lawyer for the proposed dispensary, Cassidy has quietly pushed the San Leandro officials to begin permitting commercial retail dispensaries.

Now, Cassidy is leading a push by the cannabis company to open a commercial retail dispensary in Hayward. Like San Leandro’s still-unopen dispensary, this one is to be named the Hayward Wellness Center.

Over the past week, Cassidy began making overtures to Hayward officials and local residents to attend an open house last Tuesday for the proposed dispensary at a long-vacant bank building on B Street and Main Street.

The property is on the border of a 600-foot buffer zone intended to separate proposed dispensaries from areas frequented by children, such as parks and schools. Hayward’s so-called “Green Zone” of permitted dispensaries is almost exclusively centered in the downtown areas.

Hayward Wellness Partners, led by Bloom Innovations, Inc. CEO John Oram is listed in city records as one of 22 applicants for up to three commercial retail dispensaries in Hayward.

Harborside is also an applicant for Hayward’s commercial permits, as is, Garden of Eden, which operates a medical cannabis dispensary in nearby unincorporated Alameda County.

Oram and others associated with the Davis Street Wellness Center dispensary were also seen at an Alameda City Council special meeting last year dedicated to that city’s then-proposed ordinance to begin allowing dispensary.in Alameda. Bloom Innovations, Inc. also has an office in Alameda.

The Hayward City Council, last November, approved a menu of permitted cannabis industries, including cultivation sites, testing laboratories, delivery services, manufacturing and commercial retail dispensaries, capped at just three permits.

Due to high demand for Hayward’s permits, any decision on granting approval will not come for months, as city staff conducts background checks and vets each applicant’s proposal.

For years, though, Hayward officials have often displayed disdain towards cannabis in their city. The attitude was the result of a number of bad experiences with some previous dispensaries. Infamously, Hayward Mayor Barbara Halliday, then a councilmember, once toured a former Hayward dispensary just as a robbery was taking place.

Yet, despite years of ambivalence toward cannabis, Hayward appears to be positioning itself as a player in the local retail cannabis market. At next Tuesday’s meeting, city staff is recommending the council approve just a six percent taxes on cannabis gross receipts.

In November 2016, Hayward voters approved a ballot measure that allows the city to tax up to 15 percent. Neighboring cities like Oakland and San Leandro currently tax, or will begin taxing cannabis, at roughly 10 percent.

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