City to Come to Terms with Marijuana Legalization

‘The voters have spoken, and we need to be regulated,’ says Mayor Tornek

Published : Tuesday, April 11, 2017 | 5:31 AM

Nearly six months after the voters of California passed Proposition 64, which allows adults aged 21 years or older to possess and use marijuana for recreational purposes, the City of Pasadena still does not officially allow marijuana dispensaries, nor formulated a city-wide plan for its use, possession or sale.

To that end, officials are holding a series of public meetings to help formulate a public policy. Three community meetings will be held, the first today from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Pasadena Senior Center’s West Pavilion at 85 E. Holly Street, and the others in the same time slots on April 18 at the Pasadena City Hall Basement Training Room, and April 20 at the Pasadena Community College Circadian Room, Building CC, at 1570 East Colorado Boulevard.

“The voters of California have spoken, and the US Attorney General has spoken with another voice, and we increasingly find ourselves in California at odds with the Federal government. But, Pasadena has never allowed marijuana dispensaries, not even medical marijuana, when it was legal,” Mayor Terry Tornek said Monday.

Tornek said that the City now needs to develop some type of land use regulations that would permit the opening of legal dispensaries.

‘We’re going to have to regulate them carefully, because I think they threaten to be like liquor stores, which have been nuisances in some locations,” he said. Tornek added that the process could be “controversial and troublesome, but that’s the reason for having these public meetings.”

Councilmember Margaret McAustin said Monday that regulation is now more important than ever in controlling what could become a sudden proliferation of dispensaries.

“If we regulate them,” she said, “we will have the opportunity to shut down the bad operators quickly, which is something we don’t have now. Without regulation, they have more control. They can just pop open and get shut down, and then more somewhere else.”

Meanwhile, local marijuana dispensaries, still in a kind of legal limbo, have recently begun organizing with the support of unions such as the UFCW LOCAL 770.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), Local 770, the largest union of dispensary employees in Southern California announced last week that it has organized cannabis dispensary employees at two Pasadena dispensaries — UFD Apothecary and the Golden State Collective.

The employees are not yet union members, however, and cannot legally become members until the dispensaries are legally licensed, which they are not in Pasadena yet. At the moment, any dispensaries in Pasadena are not yet “legal” in the City.

According to Local 770 representative Rigo Valdez, the new state law requires that dispensaries with 20 or more employees have a labor agreement in place “with a bonafide labor organization” before being able to obtain a state license. Local 770 has been organizing employees in Los Angeles since 2011, he said.

Valdez also said that the union will testify at the public meetings, saying that, “We think that legal dispensaries can provide good jobs to the community.”

Currently City Planning Department staff has recommended an ordinance that would regulate the sale of recreational marijuana, similar to cigarette sales regulations. The regulations would include permitting, and restrictions on the number and locations of dispensaries in the city. The staff recommended a limit of seven retail outlets and new rules outlawing the location of dispensaries near schools.

Other regulations would include background checks and fingerprinting of operators and owners of marijuana outlets, and the creation of new operating standards for marijuana retail outlets.

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