.Dispensary Approved with Conditions

Council votes 6-1 for the site at the old Emily’s Bakery

The contentious debate over whether city leaders should approve a dispensary operating near Santa Cruz High School has come to a close. The Santa Cruz City Council voted 6-1 on May 13 to greenlight The Hook Outlet, a dispensary at the former site of Emily’s Bakery on the corner of Mission and Laurel Streets.

The Hook is required to file a quarterly fake ID report, ban anyone under 21 from buying cannabis, and pass an annual review of their permit under conditions of approval brought by Councilmembers Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson and Martine Watkins.

The seemingly innocuous proposal became embroiled in controversy after the Santa Cruz City Schools came out against it earlier this year due to its proximity to the local high school. During numerous meetings leading up to the final vote, fears  centered on students possibly using fake IDs to purchase cannabinoid products.

The dispensary was approved by the Planning Commission on March 7 after it agreed the dispensary met all city zoning requirements. However, the decision was appealed to the city council by a group of concerned parents.

The intervention of the school and parents spurred support from customers of The Hook and Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM), which is selling one of five cannabis licenses in the city to The Hook as part of the approval.

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Although WAMM is not on the application for the dispensary, many community members who have benefitted from WAMM over the years came out to speak in favor of approving the dispensary as a means of continuing WAMM’s mission.

WAMM is selling their license because of “massive debt” they have accrued selling marijuana at a discount to those with disabilities and medical conditions, according to Valerie Corral, founder of WAMM.

Political heavyweights State Senator John Laird and State Assemblymember Gail Pellerin also wrote letters in support of approving the dispensary based on their history with WAMM going back to Corral’s work in decriminalizing marijuana and the 2002 DEA raid on WAMM facilities.

In a prior meeting Emily Reilly, ex-mayor and owner of Emily’s Bakery, also spoke favorably of Bryce Berryessa, co-founder of the Hook, whom she sold her lease to.

In proposing the motion to deny the appeal, Councilmember Sandy Brown said, “This is an incredibly responsible business and partner. It is not about WAMM but it is too.”

Vice Mayor Renee Golder was unapologetic in her reasons for not supporting the approval for the dispensary. She was the sole ‘no’ vote during the council meeting.

“I also saw the letters of some of my esteemed political colleagues. None of them are raising young adults or high school students,” Golder said.. “I’ve seen kids go to the ER completely throwing up, having to get IVs over and over again because of the level of potency, and yes it is on the parents, but not all kids have parents that are there to educate them and teach them and that is unfortunately that is the responsibility of the schools and that is why I think the schools feel so passionate about this.”

Councilmember Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson took a middle position, but still ultimately voted in favor of the dispensary.

“I feel that as a parent, a prevention advocate, an ally and a friend to the cannabis industry, it is not the right location, ” Kalantari-Johnson said. “But having said that, the rules on the books are the rules on the book. I have heard what people are saying. It is unfair to change the rules.”

As a member of the city council’s cannabis subcommittee, Kalantari-Johnson said they would be proposing changes to the city’s cannabis laws in the future, including increasing the distance from schools that dispensaries would have to follow in the future from 600 feet to 800 feet.

With the issue of The Hook finally settled, the city council turns its attention across the street, where the council will take up the appeal of the Food Bin housing project on May 28, stay tuned.


  1. The efforts from Kris Munro (spelling?) seem out of bounds. Glad that the council prevailed in approving this.

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    • oh, are there 21 year old high school kids? Because if not, they wont be getting in.

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    • Super convenient places to buy alcohol even closer to the high school, but thats fine because…. They check ID?

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