American Canyon approves indoor cannabis cultivation

Napa Valley Fumé is close to becoming American Canyon’s first cannabis business.

The company on Thursday secured a permit from the American Canyon Planning Commission to use an existing industrial building.

It must next secure state cannabis licenses and complete an operational agreement with the city setting forth terms and conditions.

The business would have indoor cultivation, manufacturing and delivery service, but no storefront sales. It is to be located on Klamath Court in the city’s Green Island Industrial Park.

“It’s a big milestone tonight in getting the first use permit,” Napa Valley Fumé CEO Eric Sklar said as the Zoom-only hearing wrapped up.

Planning Commission Chairperson Andrew Goff said Napa Valley Fumé has met American Canyon’s standards. Those are outlined in the city’s cannabis ordinance.

“So now we’re getting down to the comfortableness of having a business like this in our city,” Goff said.

Goff said it helps that Sklar is from Napa County. Sklar co-founded Alpha Omega winery and was a managing partner from 2005 to 2013. He served on the St. Helena City Council from 2003 to 2010.

Commissioner Crystal Dispo Mallare questioned Sklar on what the building will look like when the business moves in. She didn’t want the operation to be too inviting.

Neither did Sklar, who talked about having tinted windows and no identifying sign.

“To be honest, we’d rather nobody know we’re a cannabis business,” he said.

Peter Nissen has his Nissen Vineyard Services down the street from the building that Napa Valley Fume plans to use. Among other things, he expressed concern in a letter that the cannabis business could increase criminal activity.

Sklar in response listed various security steps that Napa Valley Fume will take, from security guards to cameras.

“I think this may end up being the safest block in American Canyon when we move in,” Sklar said.

Police Chief Oscar Ortiz wasn’t ready to go that far, asking how that could be quantified. The city will fine-tune the safety issues with the operational agreement, he said.

“It is pretty comprehensive and a lot of work went into it, as far as I can tell,” Ortiz said.

Commissioner Eric Altman had one particular concern about cannabis businesses in general. He doesn’t like cannabis edible products that seem made to attract children, such as cherry cola gummy bears, which isn’t a Napa Valley Fume product.

“That’s my concern — how do we make sure kids aren’t getting this stuff?” Altman said.

Sklar agreed that cannabis edibles shouldn’t be attractive to children and said that is state law. Delivery people giving cannabis products to kids would be criminally liable for providing drugs to a minor and put the company at enormous risk, he said.

People placing orders must produce a valid credit card and driver’s license and must show the driver’s license to get the product from the delivery person, he said.

“It has to be the person on the driver’s license, period,” Sklar said.

Napa Valley Fumé already cultivates cannabis and manufactures cannabis products in Lake County. Sklar has in recent years unsuccessfully tried to convince the Napa County Board of Supervisors to allow outdoor commercial cannabis cultivation in the rural county.

The Board of Supervisors intended to explore the commercial cannabis cultivation issue this year, but put it on the back burner amid the COVID-19 pandemic.