Richmond proposes 45-day moratorium on smoke shops over regulatory concerns

According the statistics provided by the city, there are more than two places to buy tobacco per square mile in Richmond.

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Sunday, April 7, 2024
Richmond proposes moratorium on smoke shops over regulatory concerns
The city of Richmond is looking to crack down on smoke shops, saying many are operating illegally.

RICHMOND, Calif. (KGO) -- Richmond's mayor says that his city has the potential to become the East Bay's smoke shop capital with 78 licensed tobacco retailers.

"That's too many. That is too many smoke shops," says Muriel Crumwell, a life-long Richmond resident.

Crumwell is a smoker, who was parked outside of a smoke shop. But even she still thinks the city can cut back.

"It would be a good idea. Why would we have all these smoke shops? It's just making people want to smoke. Creating bad habits to be honest," says Crumwell.

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According the statistics provided by the city, there are more than two places to buy tobacco per square mile in Richmond. Mayor Eduardo Martinez is proposing a 45-day moratorium on new permits and licenses.

"We need the moratorium so that we have the space and the time to look at all of the regulations, all the rules that we have," the mayor said at the April 2 city council meeting.

A moratorium would impact smoke shops, lounges and tobacco retailers. There are provisions to extended the moratorium for up to two years.

"Nothing is ever quite the way it seems in Richmond," says Tom Butt, the former Richmond mayor, who served 28 years on city council.

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Butt says the problem isn't the proliferation of smoke shops. It's regulation.

"Some are unlicensed. Unregistered. Some of them are illegal. The problem is not one of needing new legislation, needing moratoriums. The problem is getting the city council to fund the police department, so they can start the regulatory unit back up again," explains Butt.

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In Richmond, police license and regulate tobacco. Budget cuts to the police department meant cuts to the regulatory unit. In documents prepared for the previous city council meeting, the city admits to being behind on compliance.

"Sometimes these regulatory actions involve arrests and that kind of thing. You need somebody who has the authority to do that and the experience doing it. So, the police department is a good place for it to reside.," says Butt.

Butt believes more inspections of shops could lead to immediate shut down of some retailers, which bring down the overall number.

The mayor's office did not respond to request for comment. City council is expected to vote on the ordinance at the April 16 meeting.

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