Pasadena Moves to Change Laws Blocking Legal Marijuana Retailers From Opening Stores

Published : Wednesday, October 23, 2019 | 4:24 PM

[Updated] City Manager Steve Mermell announced on Wednesday the Planning Commission will consider changing the City’s existing business cannabis regulations.

“I have initiated a process for the Planning Commission and the City Council to consider a change to local law that would allow the six highest-rated cannabis applicants to seek to locate on the sites that they have identified,” Mermell said in a statement released late in the afternoon.

According to Mermell the Commission will meet next month to consider the changes which would allow up to three cannabis retailers per Council district and decrease the minimum distance between cannabis retailers from 1,000 feet to 450 feet.

The code amendments would not increase the overall maximum number of allowed dispensaries or change any of the separation requirements from sensitive uses.

The Planning Commission will forward its recommendation on the proposed amendments to the City Council, and the City Council will make a final decision on the proposed amendment at a separately-noticed public hearing.

In June, the Atrium Group, Harvest of Pasadena, Integral Associates Dena, Tony Fong, Sweet Flower Pasadena and MME Pasadena Retail were picked from among 122 applicants vying for permission to sell marijuana in the city. Each of the applicants paid the city a $14,000 application fee.

But almost immediately after the winners were named, other operators began pointing fingers at each other and city officials.

On June 26, Damian Martin unsuccessfully attempted to appeal the city’s decision after WOW Health and Wellness was not chosen among the top six applicants.

Less than a month later, Martin accused Pasadena Planning Director David Reyes of covertly changing the rules of the process in a “secret, illegal, and total underhanded fashion.”

Things got even more contentious after the Atrium Group, Sweet Flower and Harvest applied for Conditional Use Permits for locations in Pasadena.

The Atrium Group and Sweet Flower were both denied permits. After Harvest’s application was deemed complete by city officials, it seemed as if Atrium and Sweet Flower would never get the chance to sell cannabis in Pasadena.

Sweet Flower appealed the ruling twice but lost both appeals. The Atrium Group has filed a lawsuit against the city. Both retailers attacked Harvest and claimed the city was ignoring key provisions in the ordinance.

If the proposed changes Mermell initiated are approved, Sweet Flower and Atrium would be allowed back into the process and could open shops in Old Pasadena.

Last year, the voters passed Measure CC which allows a limited number of cannabis retailers to operate in Pasadena. Voters also allowed the council to retain the authority to amend existing ordinances and adopt future ordinances regarding commercial cannabis business activities.

The vote did not pass the ordinance which prohibits retailers from opening within 1000 feet from schools, churches, libraries and residential areas.

According to Mermell and Planning Director David Reyes, only four retailers will be able to open shops in Pasadena due to provisions of the current ordinance.

“Under the present regulations, only four of the top candidates would be able to open for business instead of the up to six approved by voters,” Mermell wrote. “If the Planning Commission and the City Council decide to modify existing regulations, there is likely ample space in the city to accommodate all six of the retailers that scored highest in the City’s application process.”

“This is a fair and equitable solution to the lack of suitable space under present regulations while preserving all of the protections for neighborhoods and sensitive uses,” Mermell said.

 

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