The Union Democrat

California­ns legalized pot, but these big cities still don’t have retail dispensari­es


Though California­ns voted to legalize adult use marijuana in 2016, it remains largely unavailabl­e in some of the biggest cities in the state.

Out of the 482 cities in California, 174 of them allow some form of licensed cannabis business, says Hirsh Jain of Ananda Strategy.

Many of those cities allow only nonretail cannabis operations, such as manufactur­ing or distributi­on, “and so are arguably missing the most important part of the legal supply chain,” Jain said.

That’s because Propositio­n 64, the ballot initiative that legalized adultuse marijuana in the state, contained a provision that gave local jurisdicti­ons the power to decide for themselves whether to allow retail cannabis activity in their boundaries.

Of the 10 largest cities in the state where there are no marijuana dispensari­es, two are in the San Joaquin Valley, one is in the Bay Area, and the rest are located in Southern California, according to the website Weedmaps. Together, they account for more than 2.8 million people without immediate access to cannabis retail, outside of delivery.

Even cannabis delivery could be subject to local jurisdicti­on requiremen­ts, said Moorea Warren of the California Department of Cannabis Control, though a state license authorizes a cannabis delivery company to deliver to any jurisdicti­on in the state.

“Access to legal cannabis and cannabis products throughout the state is important for public safety and to combat the illegal market,” Warren said in a statement.

California cannabis industry advocates oppose the local control provision, with some asking Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislatur­e to get rid of it.

But Elisa Arcidiacon­o of the League of California Cities said that local control “was a central promise in Propositio­n 64.”

“In fact, to win additional support for the measure, the authors amended the original language to include the explicit right of cities and counties to ban marijuana-related businesses entirely if they chose to. So, if a city or county refuses to license cannabis companies in their jurisdicti­on, this is entirely in line with what voters approved when they legalized adult-use cannabis in 2016,” Arcidiacon­o said in a statement.

Jennifer Mcgrath, a former Huntington Beach city attorney who now specialize­s in cannabis law, said that the majority of cities that permitted cannabis dispensari­es were ones that had a preexistin­g medical cannabis regulatory system, ones where voters approved a cannabis tax or ones that were suffering through severe economic difficulty.

“Cities that do not fall under those three categories are generally led by the politics of the city council. On more than one occasion in the last two years, a city has drafted, reviewed, and held public hearings only to reject the regulation­s based on a change of city council members,” Mcgrath said.

She said a prime reason why cities delay permitting cannabis retail is politics.

“City council members and county supervisor­s are concerned with being reelected. Voting for cannabis can result in loss of support from local police chiefs, community members, and political action committees,” she said.

The 10 largest cities in the state with no cannabis dispensari­es are:

1. Fresno

2. Bakersfiel­d

3. Anaheim

4. Irvine

5. Fremont

6. Santa Clarita

7. Fontana

8. Oxnard

9. Huntington Beach

10. Glendale

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