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Burlingame OKs cannabis delivery

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Burlingame is set to get its first cannabis delivery business, with the planning committee giving approval for Purple Lotus in the Bay Area to move to the Bayfront site.

The city council voted to start allowing such businesses in the city early last year, and Purple Lotus, which has operated a retail store in San Jose since 2010 and also operates a delivery-only location in Oakland, was the first to place an order.

Burlingame will employ eight to 11 people with 10 delivery vehicles, and is based on an online ordering system. The business will not be marked (depending on city rules) and will be inside a larger office building on the Old Bayshore Highway.

With a myriad of delivery options already serving the peninsula including Burlingame, the city council chose to allow industry into the city citing the potential to increase tax revenue and reduce emissions from local delivery. The rules allow up to four delivery companies in the city, but prohibit retail storefronts.

Planning commissioners last week raised several ethical and safety concerns, but eventually agreed on the storefront by 6 to 1. President Michael Gul, who introduced the dissenting vote, was joined by commissioners Audrey Tse and Sandy Kumaroto in questioning the integrity of the process, which would require the Delivery drivers carry the product down a driveway to their vehicles. Cannabis is still illegal federally, which requires companies to operate mostly for cash.

But Scott Spencell, the city’s assistant attorney general, said that little additional information could be provided about such logistics due to security concerns, and that the plan had been approved by the chief of police.

“I’m not sure we should be concerned about security as long as the police check it out,” Commissioner John Schmid said, noting that the biggest risk would likely be at the delivery point.

Tse also shared her concern about facilitating access “not only to young people but to legal adults who can purchase these products.” Kumaroto said she had “always been worried about getting drugs” but that the commission shouldn’t pretend it “didn’t really happen on the streets”.

However, Commissioner Sean Lowenthal noted the current delivery options serving the city, and the possibility that cannabis will soon become federal legal.

“Just not allowing this is not going to stop in any way or form the distribution, so I think we would be a little remiss to focus on those points rather than the actual benefits, which I think is significant tax revenue,” she said.

The city currently only has a flat business tax, but the city council has discussed creating a special tax for cannabis, which would require voter approval. Neighboring cities with set fees for cannabis charge between 4% and 10% of total revenue. Even a modest tax can make a city millions a year from an established operator.

Other cities in the county that have allowed cannabis retailers to varying degrees include Brisbane, Pacifica, Redwood City, San Carlos, San Bruno, and South San Francisco.

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