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City Council Amendments to Cannabis Ordinance Will Allow More Dispensaries

Published on Monday, August 16, 2021 | 5:00 am

[UPDATED] The City Council will conduct the first reading of an amended cannabis ordinance that will increase the number of dispensaries allowed in the city and change the distance requirements between those outlets.

The new regulations will allow the number of cannabis retailers to increase from one to three in each of the city’s seven council districts and decrease the required distance between retailers from 1,000 feet to 450 feet. 

Last week, a divided council voted in favor of the changes with Councilmembers John Kennedy, Felicia Williams and Gene Masuda opposing the measure. 

“It’s discriminatory. No African Americans or Latinos are in the queue to receive a license,” Kennedy said. 

African Americans and Latinos bore the brunt of law enforcement actions for then-illegal cannabis activities for decades, but now are being cut out of the economic advantages of selling cannabis legally in many communities.

In Pasadena, it cost $14,000 just to enter the city’s cannabis approval process.

The city isn’t expected to consider implementing a social equity program for the cannabis trade until sometime next year. 

In 2018, voters approved Measure CC, which allows a maximum of six dispensaries and requires each shop to maintain a distance from other dispensaries as well as churches, schools, libraries, and parks.

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 after 41 people sent correspondence opposing the change.

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

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

At least four unsuccessful lawsuits have been filed against the city.

The proposed amendments would remove those distance limits by adopting requirements imposed by the state.

The city chose six dispensaries in 2019 to move forward in its process with Integral, Atrium, Sweetflower, Medmen, Harvest, and Tony Fong.

So far, only two of those dispensaries, Integral and Tony Fong, have opened. According to a staff report, Harvest has plans to open in District 3.

Atrium, MedMen and Sweetflower unsuccessfully attempted to sue the city after they were not allowed to advance in the approval process.

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