The City of Long Beach will have a legal framework to address illegal marijuana dispensaries after the city council voted unanimously Tuesday night to adopt an ordinance that updates the city’s municipal code giving the city broader powers to crack down on out-of-compliance operators.
The ordinance, read for the first time Tuesday and requiring a second round of votes for adoption, will give the city the power to cut utilities to non-licensed marijuana businesses, declare those operations and properties public nuisances as well as bring civil and criminal suits against the operators and property owners.
If found in violation of the updated municipal code, a court could issue a maximum civil penalty of $5,000 per violation per day against a non-licensed marijuana business and individuals found in violation of the municipal code could be found guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months imprisonment and a fine of up to $1,000.
“We believe that this proposed ordinance will assist the city in its efforts in conjunction with the remedies already available to the city to ensure compliance with 5.9 [Long Beach Municipal Code section 5.90.290] and hopefully discourage illegal operations related to medical marijuana dispensaries,” said Long Beach City Attorney Charles Parkin.
Additionally, properties where non-licensed storefronts were found to have been in operation are subject to a potential prohibition of marijuana-related businesses for up to one year, and those properties that have had a commercial or industrial rental business license revoked are subject to a five-year ban for housing another similar business.
The request for the update was made in May by Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price who has opposed efforts to bring medical marijuana dispensaries back to the city since discussions picked up steam in 2015. During those discussions Price maintained that the city would not financially benefit from the operation of marijuana businesses, stating that the costs of enforcing the storefronts would result in a break-even operation for Long Beach.
“They’re unfair to the legal operators who are paying taxes and incurring the costs associated with following the regulations that the city and the state have set for them,” Price said. “And they’re obviously very detrimental to the city because the cost of enforcing our existing laws, state and local regulations, is very burdensome for the city and can cost the city millions of dollars per site as we have seen from past experience.”
Long Beach voters passed a ballot initiative in November which pushed aside the city’s ban on the operation of medical marijuana businesses in the city and the first of those storefronts have yet to open. The ordinance will be voted on a second time at the next scheduled city council meeting.