Council Approves Ballot Measure to Allow, Regulate Marijuana Sales in Pasadena

New ordinance would be voted on in June; would limit number of shops to a maximum of six city-wide

Published : Tuesday, February 27, 2018 | 6:18 AM

Council Approves Ballot Measure to Allow, Regulate Marijuana Sales in Pasadena

Rolling back years of complete opposition to the possibility of local cannabis sales, the Pasadena City Council Monday evening approved a ballot measure for the June 5 municipal election that if passed by voters would allow and regulate local retail marijuana sales, cultivation and laboratories.

If passed, the measure would be a dramatic reversal of the City’s long-held opposition of such businesses. In 2017, Pasadena attempted to close a slew of illegal dispensaries through fines, orders and even orders to shut off water and power to a property which failed to evict a marijuana dispensary tenant.

Commercial cannabis sales and distribution have long been specifically prohibited in the City’s Health and Safety Code and medical cannabis uses in the Zoning Code.

As recently as November of last year, the City Council approved the second reading of three ordinances related to cannabis use and commercial cannabis which shut the door on commercial cannabis activity in response to the passage of the State Adult Use of Marijuana Act and SB 94 and legalization in California of recreational/nonmedical cannabis

With the exception of allowing medical cannabis deliveries into the City from licensed cannabis businesses in other jurisdictions, all commercial cannabis uses were prohibited under these ordinances, including cultivation, manufacturing, testing, and distribution.

However, on December 13, 2017, proponents in favor of allowing commercial cannabis uses in the City submitted a referendum petition to the City Clerk’s Office, along with a Notice of Intention to circulate an initiative measure to the City Clerk’s Office proposing regulations that would allow commercial cannabis businesses to operate in the City, as well as a taxation component for legal cannabis sales.

The new ordinance is essentially capitalizing on the local desire for cannabis sales, as well as keeping ahead of the proposed referendum with local regulations and tax requirements.

As the Planning and Community Development Department staff report noted, “Placing a City Council approved ordinance on the ballot of the June 5, 2018 special election would maintain the Council’s ability to develop important policy, land use regulations and fiscally responsible tax measures to preserve the quality of life that Pasadena’s residents, visitors and business community desire and expect.”

The proposed ordinance for Pasadena, if approved, would allow three types of licenses — retail, cultivation, and lab testing.

A Retailer License would allow a commercial cannabis business to operate where cannabis and/or cannabis products are offered for retail sale, including deliveries as part of retail sale.

There would be a maximum of six retailers allowed within the City at any one time, and no more than one retailer within any one Council District. The retailers may not be located within 1,000 feet of any other cannabis retailer, and may not be located within 300 feet of any residential zone, or Cannabis lab, or within 600 feet of any park, K-12 school, church, childcare center, substance abuse center, or library.

Retailers would also be required to verify the age and all necessary documentation to ensure customers are of legal age for both medical and adult recreational use, according to the report. Uniformed licensed security personnel would also be required to monitor the site activity, control loitering and access, and serve as visual deterrent to unlawful activities.

As proposed, marijuana dispensaries would be limited to 15,000 square feet in size. Cannabis cultivation labs would would be limited to four city-wide, and not more than one in any one district. Cannabis labs would be limited to 30,000 square feet in size, including office space.

Much of the discussion was devoted to the possibility, as proposed by Councilmember Steve Madison, that cannabis edibles be expressly prohibited.

“I don’t want cannabis looking like Gummy Bears. Kids eat that stuff,” Madison said.

Planning Director David Reyes told Madison that State law strictly regulates cannabis packaging, in an effort to avoid such occurrences. Councilmember Margaret McAustin also noted that marijuana edibles account for 50% of cannabis sales.

“If we cut off that much of the market, the owners may be less motivated to open here, and we lose that tax revenue,” she said.

Councilmembers were also torn regarding the total number of shops to be allowed.

Councilmember Andy Wilson said, “(Given the regulations), I could see five fitting in,” while Councilmember Victor Gordo said he would like to see between three and five retail shops.

“Six is too many,” said Mayor Terry Tornek. “I see them all as nuisance uses, but I am resigned to them. I know there is a desire out there.”

Echoing the mayor’s comment somewhat, Councilmember Margaret McAustin said, “I might not vote for this ordinance, but let’s take it to the voters.”

Dozens of local residents spoke to the Council in favor of the ordinance, with one resident addressing the need for a separate election for the measure.

“You have the authority!,” he told the Council. “Enact the ordinance now.”

The Council also approved the ballot measure wording, as well as a proposed tax regulation formula for the cannabis retail outlets.

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