Will Pasadena Allow Marijuana Sales After All?

Council to consider a regulatory ballot measure after group of residents attempts voter referendum

Published : Monday, January 22, 2018 | 6:45 AM

Will Pasadena Allow Marijuana Sales

After slamming the door shut on recreational and medicinal marijuana sales in Pasadena last year, the City Council may just be about to take a brand new tack on the subjects.

The City Council Monday will consider directing City staff to prepare and return to the Council for its consideration all documents necessary to place one or more possible ballot initiatives on the June 5, 2018 ballot which would allow and regulate and tax marijuana sales within the city.

The move could lead to a dramatic reversal of the City’s position, which last year saw it attempt to close a slew of illegal dispensaries through fines, orders and even considerations to shut off water and power to a property which failed to evict a marijuana dispensary tenant.

Commercial cannabis uses are currently specifically prohibited in the City’s Health and Safety Code and medical cannabis uses in the Zoning Code.

On November 13, 2017, 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.

Mayor Terry Tornek told Pasadena Now on Friday “now there is this initiative being proposed, obviously the people who sell marijuana are very much vested in trying to preserve their businesses, so it appears that there’s going to be an endless pursuit of that objective.”

“So the question that the city staff is raising correctly, is do we want to take action to pre-empt or compete with their initiative? If they’re successful in getting initiative, should we compete with it? And develop our own initiative because we’re likely to be what we come up with is more likely to be more desirable than what they come up with,” Tornek said.

In the agenda document, City Manager Steve Mermell pointed the potential fallout from the initiative, should it pass.

“Amending the City’s rules to allow the unrestricted or very limited regulation of commercial cannabis activities may result in negative impacts citywide,” Mermell said. “While the State Marijuana Laws give each jurisdiction the right to regulate these uses as each sees fit, the recent actions by proponents of commercial cannabis activity could effectively remove the City’s ability to determine its land use regulations.”

The report continued, “The current initiative effort could fall short of the required signatures, as the referendum has, but there is nothing that would prevent further efforts at an initiative, which is why staff is asking the Council to consider possible options”

Mermell’s recommendation to the Council is to put forth a ballot measure with the City’s own proposed land use regulations regarding the sale, cultivation, and delivery of recreational and medical cannabis. This could be done as early as the June 2018 special election. As envisioned,the City would craft marijuana regulations to allow commercial cannabis businesses based on input received during the public outreach process and from the numerous Planning Commission, Economic Development and Technology Committee, and City Council meetings on the subject.

Should the Council put a ballot measure forward in the June 2018 election, City staff is also recommending that it put forward a separate taxation measure.

Assuming that the subsequent tax revenues are to be used for any municipal purpose, the measure would require simple majority voter approval, provided the Council makes a unanimous finding of “emergency” pursuant to Proposition 218, according to the staff report.

Depending on the facts, the “emergency” finding could be based on the fiscal and actual impacts that regulating secondary effects from all commercial cannabis operations would have throughout the City. Even if the Council decides not to put forward the land use regulations in June, the staff report recommends proceeding with a tax measure so as to have something in place in the event marijuana ultimately becomes legal within the City.

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