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Cannabis Returning to City Council Monday

Council to deliberate closing distance gap between dispensaries from 1,000 to 450 feet

Published on Monday, April 19, 2021 | 5:00 am

Regulations regarding recreational marijuana will once again return to the City Council Monday when the council considers amendments to Pasadena’s cannabis ordinance.

The council is expected to discuss proposed changes to the ordinance that would shorten the distance between dispensaries from 1,000 feet to 450 feet and allow more than one dispensary per council district, provided the dispensary finished in the top six of the city’s selection process.

Of the six cannabis dispensaries approved in the city’s process, only two, Integral and Tony Fong, have opened for business.
A third company, Harvest, received a conditional use permit but so far has not opened.

Integral, Tony Fong, Harvest, Sweetflower, Atrium and MedMen successfully wended their way through the city’s $14,000 application process which was set up after voters overwhelmingly approved Measure CC.

The measure, which allows up to six dispensaries to operate in Pasadena, passed with 63 percent of the vote in 2018. The ordinance also allowed the council to retain the authority to amend existing ordinances and adopt future ordinances regarding commercial cannabis business activities.

The council placed the measure on the ballot after initially voting down an ordinance that would have allowed the sale of cannabis, but did an about-face when cannabis supporters began making efforts to get a measure on the ballot that could have allowed an unlimited number of dispensaries to operate in Pasadena.

But based on distance locations in the city’s ordinance and available locations, city officials later estimated only three dispensaries would probably open.

“I am not happy with the cannabis business zoning amendment,” said David Huynh. “It’s bad enough we are allowing six dispensaries within the city, but now to allow them to even a closer proximity is absurd.”

Residents sent a form letter supporting the amendments.

Lawyers for two cannabis companies that finished in the top six of the city’s approval process have sent letters to the City Council asking that the cannabis ordinance not be amended.

“To change the rules now to allow competitors within 450 feet of these secured locations is unfair, subject to legal challenge, and contrary to the intent of Measure CC which was designed to avoid concentration by requiring dispensaries to be spread throughout the City,” said attorney Richard McDonald, who represents Integral, one of the cannabis companies that made it through the city’s approval process and successfully acquired the necessary permits to sell cannabis in Pasadena.

According to McDonald, Tony Fong and Harvest also oppose the changes.
Of the three companies that did not advance in the process, Sweetflower was eliminated for not including required documents in its application, and Atrium was removed after Harvest successfully applied to do business in District 3. Both companies unsuccessfully attempted to sue the city. MedMen was disqualified following a city investigation. An attorney for MedMen claimed the process was prejudicial against the company, even though the company was removed from the process.

This is the second time the proposed changes have come before the City Council.
In 2019, the council shot down an effort to amend the cannabis ordinance when it tabled a motion that would have changed the law to allow up to three dispensaries to operate in each of the city’s seven council districts.

During that hearing, several council members expressed concern that changing the ordinance would go against the will of the voters and 41 people sent correspondence opposing the change.

At that meeting, the mayor and council were asked to revisit the discussion on the city’s cannabis regulations once three cannabis retailers are operational so that staff could evaluate the impacts on the city and the cannabis market.

Despite qualification for bringing the item back to council, three cannabis retailers have never been legally operating in the city.

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