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Council Committee Approves Study of City Regulations to Allow More Cannabis Dispensaries

Published on Friday, May 28, 2021 | 6:50 am

A City Council committee Thursday asked city planners to study loosening municipal cannabis regulations that allow only one dispensary per Council district and to consider reducing the distance required between dispensaries.

“There is the first issue,” City Manager Steve Mermell said to four Councilmembers of the Economic Development and Technology Committee during the meeting. “We have three permits issued to applicants. Are we interested in making some modifications to allow up to five of the initial applicants to operate? And then there is another issue: Do we want to further our program, which would result in more operators, and if so, do we want to redo it with an eye toward social equity?”

Proposed “social equity” regulations could allow certain applicants in either low-income areas, or owners affected by harsh drug laws and the “War on Drugs” to become operators with some easing of regulations.

Pasadena currently has some of the strictest regulations regarding distances between and numbers of dispensaries throughout the city.

Of the city’s six top applicants — Integral, Tony Fong, MedMen, Atrium, Sweetflower and Harvest — only one company still remains in the pipeline to be licensed and operational. 

Applicants Integral and Tony Fong have opened under the retail monikers of Essence and Varda. 

MedMen was disqualified by City Manager Steve Mermell, and Atrium and Sweetflower turned in incomplete applications and had their appeals denied by the City Council.

A Pasadena-specific program could be explored that has criteria that the Council deems appropriate, such as those that currently exist in Oakland, Long Beach and Los Angeles,  according to the staff report.

A new program that affords “equity applicants” the opportunity to be considered for a permit could also be established in combination with amendments to current location requirements to ensure that viable locations can be secured, the staff report added. 

Any new permit process would not proceed until the top applicants under the existing regulations have either been awarded a location, or run out of time under current regulations.

City Manager Mermell told the Committee that city staff would return to the EdTech Committee with a new report “in about two weeks.”

Following that discussion, the EdTech Committee would then make a formal recommendation for the full Council to consider.

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