The sale of medical cannabis products (above) was legalized in November 2016 and now the city will consider whether to allow recreational sales as well.
Long Beach could be one step closer to legalizing the sale of recreational cannabis after an expected vote Thursday by the city’s planning commission that would forward recommendations to the city council to change the city’s zoning code and allowable land uses.
Faced with state legislation that would have seen the city lose some control over how potential future sales of recreational cannabis could be sold the city council voted in December to impose a 180-day moratorium on the item until it could devise a game plan on how to potentially open up the city to the industry. A voter-approved initiative forced the city’s hand to allow the sale of medical cannabis when nearly 60 percent of voters supported it in November 2016.
A handful of medical dispensaries have opened across the city with others working their way through the permitting process. However, the city, in part by issuing the temporary ban, maintains the right to continue the ban on recreational cannabis after the council takes up the issue again in the coming weeks.
Proposed changes to the city’s zoning laws would add definitions for adult-use dispensaries, cultivation sites, manufacturing and processing, distribution and testing sites. They would also include the zoning districts in which these operations could potentially be approved.
Dispensaries would be allowed to operate in areas of the city zoned as commercial and light-industrial or in medium to general industrial areas with a conditional use permit. Cultivation, manufacturing and distribution would all be relegated to industrial only zones of the city. The only other portion of the industry that could be allowed in commercial-zoned areas would be businesses that test cannabis products.
The buffers for these types of businesses are similar to those imposed on medical dispensaries with locations having to be at least 1,000 feet away from public or private schools or public beaches and 600 feet from public parks or libraries. In August the city council voted to add a 600-foot buffer for daycare centers for medical dispensaries and could still add more buffer requirements once the planning commission recommendations are sent to the council.
A preview of the zoning map, which will be sent to the council, shows that under the current guidelines that will be voted on by the planning commission medical dispensaries could be located in portions of every council district across the city.
While the planning commission’s vote will send recommendations to the city council the chance that zoning allowances and buffer requirements could change still remains. The council could also vote to continue the ban on the sale of recreational cannabis.
However that seems unlikely as many comments made during meetings last year when it approved the temporary moratorium showed that a majority of the council is open to allowing the industry to exist in the city with proper regulations. A move by a minority of the council to ban the sales outright also failed during the same meeting.
Vice Mayor Rex Richardson pointed to the ballot that put medicinal clinics back in business in Long Beach as proof of the voters’ will in the city, but also as a cautionary tale for the city that lost its ability to draw up the rules for governing medicinal marijuana once it became a ballot initiative.
“With medicinal we had time and time again to pass an ordinance and we failed to do so and the result was the industry went to the ballot and sort of tied the city’s hands,” Richardson said. “I don’t want to make that mistake again.”
The 180-day moratorium on the sale of recreational cannabis expires June 18 and the council is likely to meet and discuss the matter before then.
Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz__LB on Twitter.
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