By JEFF CLEMETSON | La Mesa Courier
Seventeen. That is the greatest number of adult use cannabis dispensaries that can operate in La Mesa following a vote by the City Council on Sept. 24 that adopts new rules governing cannabis businesses in the city.
The new rules state that only medical cannabis dispensaries that are currently approved or have applied for a conditional use permit as of the Sept. 24 meeting can apply for a permit to operate an adult use dispensary co-located in their medical dispensary. There are currently 17 such dispensaries either open or in the permit process in the city.
The number of adult use dispensaries was almost 16, because the original ordinance included a provision that would block all adult use dispensaries from opening within a 1,000 foot perimeter of schools in residential neighborhoods. One dispensary, soon to be opened on La Mesa Boulevard, fell into that 1,000 perimeter of Lemon Avenue Elementary.
The dispensary owner, his attorneys and cannabis activists argued during public comments that the dispensary should be allowed an exception and granted a permit.
“We’ve invested over $750,000 to get to this point in the cities process, fees, tenant improvements which have been completed and just last week we completed the offsite improvements required by the city for street and sidewalk improvements at a cost of $50,000 — those are done,” said Greg Holda, owner of Fresh Selection, the dispensary in question. “So an incredible investment has been made at this point, assuming we would qualify for the recreational permit under the old separation rules. It’s a matter of fairness at this point.”
Holda also argued that although he’d still be permitted to run a medical dispensary — because the new rules cannot override Prop U, the citizens’ initiative that legalized medical marijuana businesses in la Mesa — he’d be at a competitive disadvantage to the 16 other dispensaries allowed to sell recreational cannabis to people of 21 years of age with proper ID.
After debating different ways to approach allowing Fresh Selection an exception, the Council asked if it was legal to make the cutoff for dispensary permit applications the date of the meeting to avoid a rush of new applications the next day. City Attorney Glen Sabine affirmed that it was, so the amendment was added to the ordinance, allowing Fresh Selection to apply for an adult use permit.
In addition to allowing the 17 adult use cannabis dispensaries, the new ordinance also sets guidelines for other cannabis businesses such as grow operations, cannabis product manufacturing and testing facilities. Those businesses will only be allowed in industrial zones. The new ordinance keeps Prop U requirements for safety and security like cameras, armed guards, alarms, odor control, etc.
The new rules are expected to go into effect sometime in November.
— Reach editor Jeff Clemetson at firstname.lastname@example.org.