Long Beach plans to allow more cannabis dispensaries, possibly by next year • Long Beach Post News


The eight additional dispensary licenses the board plans to create would be reserved for equity applicants, or those with less net worth and with a cannabis-related criminal history. It could be years before they open, but several board members have expressed a desire to speed up this process.

The city council voted on Tuesday night to go ahead with the development of an ordinance to determine how far the new equity dispensaries should be located from existing dispensaries and how applicants will be prioritized and selected for the new eight. coveted licenses.

The council also demanded that an alternative source of funding to an increase in taxes on cannabis businesses be found for the roughly $ 555,000 it could cost to expand the city’s cannabis social equity program to support communities. new business operators.

A municipal staff proposal suggested raising the tax rate on some cannabis companies by 0.25% to offset start-up and ongoing costs to pay additional employees to administer the program, which the government objected to. industry and several board members.

“It’s not that I object to things being imposed at an appropriate level, but it seems a bit contrary to what we just did,” Mayor Robert Garcia said of the increase. proposed tax and its potential impact on capital business owners.

City manager Tom Modica said the tax increase was being proposed because the additional income generated by the additional equity companies would likely not be available for two to three years.

The city could seek grants or cut positions in other departments to cover the costs of the equity program, Modica said, and those options will likely be presented to council when the ordinance is drafted.

The ordinance would also allow an unlimited number of delivery licenses only for equity applicants, which would allow companies to deliver cannabis as long as they have a business address in the city. Delivery services for Long Beach businesses are currently limited to existing dispensary storefronts

A feasibility report released by the city earlier this month made a number of recommendations alongside one to add the eight additional equity dispensary licenses.

The report suggested expanding the city’s ‘green zone’, the areas where clinics are allowed to open, by reducing the buffer zones for parks, beaches and schools, the latter being aligned with the buffer zones of the city. ‘State of 600 feet.

The 0.25% cannabis tax increase, the use of a lottery to help reward applicants who have been screened by a panel of volunteers and experts, and the amendment of the city’s municipal code to create more protections for fairness candidates were also suggestions contained in the report.

The use of a lottery is likely banned after several council members asked the city to use a merit-only approach, meaning that applicants would go through a traditional RFP process and companies most likely to prosper could be selected. Garcia also asked that applicants who have championed these licenses for years be rewarded for these efforts.

“If we have people committed to social equity who have been involved in the city for years and they qualify and meet the criteria, should that person have the same or a better chance of opening a dispensary?” than an incoming candidate? Garcia said.

Maps showing the city’s current buffer zones (left) and what prosperity changes could release (right) if buffer zones for schools, beaches and parks are reduced.

One of the focal points of Tuesday’s debate was on the buffer zones that determine the city’s “green zone”. City staff recommended reducing the distance between clinics and schools to the state’s 600-foot requirement, and eliminating buffer zones for beaches and parks unless they A playground.

However, this was rejected by some members. City Councilor Suzie Price has asked that a density cap, something that would limit the number of dispensaries in a given city council district, be an option for the ordinance to be returned for a vote next year.

Another recommendation from City Councilor Mary Zendejas could see the buffer zones between individual dispensaries drop from 1,000 feet to 1,500 feet. Not all board members were on board with increasing buffer distances.

“We’re trying to reduce the buffer zones and expand the areas where equity licenses can be located in our city and this particular addition makes things less restrictive,” City Councilor Al Austin said of the request. “It pushes us in the opposite direction.

Austin had requested the feasibility report in March and supported the creation of additional opportunities for participation licenses. Austin, which represents the 8th district of the city’s municipal council which includes parts of Bixby Knolls and the Los Cerritos neighborhood, has only one dispensary in its district.

“For me the most important thing is that it’s a fair process,” Austin said.

Those in the cannabis industry broadly supported the recommendations before Tuesday night, except for the tax increase. They said the increase could help send more potential customers to the black market who may charge lower prices due to the lack of taxes.

While the city appears on track to create eight new dispensary licenses, the community and industry have supported up to 34 additional licenses reserved for equity applicants and some operators still believe the number should be over eight.

The eight licenses would give stock owners a 20% share of the town’s dispensary operations once they all open their shops.

“Twenty percent is what you leave for a tip at a restaurant,” said Carlos Zepeda. “It’s an afterthought.”

The city expects the ordinance, with all of the council’s demands made on Tuesday, to return to council for a vote sometime in February.

He would then hire a consultant to help establish how the nominations will be evaluated, including who would sit on the committee that should review each nomination.

The application process, which could begin as early as May 2022, could end in November when the city believes it can start issuing the eight new dispensary licenses.

Long Beach gears up to allow more cannabis dispensaries, but with higher taxes

More cannabis dispensaries could be in the works as Long Beach seeks to increase equity in ownership

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