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Santa Monica City Council Moves Closer to Allowing Operation of Two Medicinal 'Pot Shops'


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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

October 6, 2017 -- After a long delay, the Santa Monica City Council on Tuesday is likely to plant the seeds needed to open the city’s first legal “pot shops.”

The proposed ordinance allows no more than two medicinal marijuana retail permits with possible on-site cultivation to be issued by the City and also details an elaborate vetting process for applicants, resorting to a lottery in the case of a tie.

Also authorized would be restrictions on location and a variety of fees relating to operation.

The City is delaying “implementation of any recreational cannabis business regulations, including sales, until after the two Medical Cannabis dispensaries are operating and there is more clarity at the Federal level regarding cannabis regulations and enforcement,” the City’s Marijuana Licensing website said.

“It is currently anticipated that shortly after adoption, the City will begin the selection process to select two medical cannabis operators to operate in the City,” the site said.

Pot shops have been springing up in California since the state began relaxing laws against marijuana use. Voters approved use of marijuana for medical purposes in 1996 and then joined several other states last November in voting to allow recreational use as well.

State licenses are needed, however, as well as local laws and permits. The City of Los Angeles, which borders Santa Monica on three sides, has as many as 1,500 medicinal pot shops, although its 2015 law authorized only about 135.

The City of Santa Monica has been slow to embrace pot shops, which have upset some and created problems as communities learn how to adjust.

Despite California’s relaxing of marijuana laws, local governments still make crucial decisions on zoning and permits needed for any such shop to do business legally.

In June 2015, the council adopted an updated Zoning Ordinance which potentially allowed two medical marijuana dispensaries. No permits have been issued ("Medical Marijuana Dispensaries to Be Allowed under Proposed Santa Monica Zoning Law," June 19, 2015).

Under the proposed law before the council now, medicinal cannabis outlets can be no larger than 2,500 square feet, cannot be within 600 feet of a “Child Care and Early Education or Family Day Care Facility, park, school, library, Social Service Center, or other Cannabis retailer,” a staff report said.

Hours of operation are restricted to 10 a.m. through 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and noon to 7 p.m. on Sundays.

A maximum of 15 percent of the total floor area can be used for on-site cultivation. Several safety requirements are included, as is close monitoring by police and efforts to help the community deal with any potential problems.

The cost of a Conditional Use Permit (if applicable) will be $17,204. An annual Medicinal Cannabis Light Manufacturing Permit will be $99.58, while the Business License Tax will be $75 on the first $60,000 of gross receipts, and $1.25 for each $1,000 (or fraction thereof) above that amount.

The Business License Planning Review Fee is $398.57; the Fingerprint/Live Scan Fee (per person) is $107.13, the City report said.


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