City Manager's Cannabis Ordinance Amendments Fail to Pass Planning Commission

Published : Thursday, November 14, 2019 | 4:27 AM

On Monday, the Planning Commission voted down City Manager Steve Mermell’s proposal to amend the City’s cannabis ordinance.

The proposed amendments would have allowed up to three cannabis retailers per Council District and shortened the distance restrictions between them.

Two companies that have been denied permits, the Atrium Group and SweetFlower Pasadena, would have been allowed to re-enter the City process and apply for conditional use permits (CUP) to operate in City Council District 3 while maintaining the city’s six dispensary limit.

Voters approved Measure CC last year, but gave the City Council the power to amend the ordinance.

As it stands, the matter is scheduled to go before the Council on Nov. 25, according to City Hall.

“Two wrongs don’t make a right,” said Commissioner Felicia Williams. “The City needs to honor the will of the voters and run a fair process even if it means starting the selection process over.”

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.

Atrium Group, Sweet Flower and Harvest applied for Conditional Use Permits for locations in District 3, but the City’s ordinance only allows one dispensary per Council District.

The Atrium Group and Sweet Flower were both denied permits. Atrium subsequently filed a lawsuit against the City.

Harvest and Integral, the two dispensaries farthest along in the CUP process, sent a letter to the Planning Commission claiming the zoning changes would create “significant environmental impacts” by placing half the dispensaries in one City Council district.

The impacts, according to the letter, would include increased traffic and changed patterns of urban development.

“We understand that these amendments are being offered because over the past several months the City’s cannabis permit process has been criticized and the City is facing pending litigation and a ballot initiative, each of which may interfere with the City’s efforts to make its current regulatory scheme work,” the letter states. “We would like to work with the City to resolve these challenges in a constructive manner.”

A recent California Supreme Court case determined that an amendment to zoning regulations that could impact the location of cannabis facilities may constitute a “project” and require CEQA review.

Mermell called the changes a “fair and equitable solution” last month citing the lack of suitable spaces for six dispensaries.

“In adopting Measures CC and DD, the residents of Pasadena and the City Council established a strong, clear, and consistent public policy against the concentration of dispensaries in any one district,” the letter stated. “This public policy was implemented through the adoption of the cap of one dispensary per Council District and buffer zones. Allowing up to three cannabis dispensaries per Council District is thus contrary to the will of the voters as expressed in Measures CC and DD and the expressed policy of the City Council.”


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