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Local Dispensary Opposes Changes to Local Cannabis Guidelines

Published on Thursday, July 15, 2021 | 1:47 pm

At least one local cannabis dispensary opposes changes to city guidelines regulating the industry.

The City Council’s Economic Development and Technology Committee on Thursday heard and approved a recommendation that would loosen local cannabis rules, removing the limitation on how many dispensaries can be allowed in a Council district, as well as reducing the current distance between shops to 450 feet, down from 1,000 feet. The recommendation will go before the City Council.

But according to a letter from Integral Associated Dena LLC, the recommended changes are contrary to the will of the voters.

“There is a mechanism in the ordinance ‘to fine tune the regulations’ to better implement the ‘purpose of chapter,’” wrote local attorney Richard McDonald in a letter to the council committee. “That does not mean a wholesale revision that is contrary to what residents were told when they approved it. Specifically, residents were told that the City was taking a more cautious approach than the State with distance separation requirements to protect neighborhoods. Entirely jettisoning those protections now to do the same as the State is thus contrary to the purpose of the ordinance.”

That cautious approach was presented to local residents in the form of Measure CC, which 63% of voters approved.

In a May staff report, Pasadena officials claimed the present situation is not in the best interest of the city, and is not in keeping with the intent of the voters who approved of cannabis retailing in the city and reasonably expected there to be a total six cannabis retailers doing business.

Local voters opted to have a maximum of six dispensaries, but they also voted for distance requirements between cannabis dispensaries and churches, schools and parks.

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

“Staff believes that the present situation is not in the best interest of the City, and is not in keeping with the intent of the voters who wished cannabis retailing in the City and reasonably expected there to be six cannabis retailers in the City,” the report states.

Integral complied with the City’s tough selection process in 2019, and along with Tony Fong is one of two dispensaries to receive clearance to do business in Pasadena.

Atrium and Sweetflower lost appeals, and were supposedly out of the process after turning in incomplete applications. However, now they appear to be back in. MedMen was also disqualified, and Harvest has not yet been awarded a conditional use permit (CUP) needed to open.

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

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.

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

“Last, we continue to recommend against doing anything until the current four lawsuits against the City are concluded,” McDonald wrote. “In all likelihood, anything you do now will simply create more litigation against the City.”

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