SANTA ANA — Legal medical marijuana dispensaries asked Santa Ana to give them more flexibility to run their businesses, and the city is heeding those requests.
In a 5-0 vote Tuesday night, June 20, the Santa Ana City Council approved a handful of amendments to Measure BB, the city’s medical marijuana ordinance. Mayor Miguel Pulido abstained due to a conflict of interest.
The amendments include changing pot delivery from completely prohibited to allowing delivery to qualified patients, caregivers or testing and research and development facilities, and extending dispensary operating hours from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays, to 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.
“That would help patients that work night shifts to be able to come to permitted dispensaries and help us to hire full-time positions in eight-hour shifts,” Jayson Quinones, president of the Santa Ana Cannabis Association, which includes licensed dispensaries in the city, said during public comment. “Extended hours will help us to be similar to Rite Aid.”
In addition, the existing overnight cash limit of $200 was eliminated, consistent with any other commercial establishment. The sign allowance was broadened from one non-illuminated wall sign up to 10 square feet in size to allow wall signs to be installed in compliance with the city’s standard sign code.
Since Measure BB was approved by voters in 2014, the city established an enforcement program and administrative policies to regulate 20 lottery-selected cannabis operators and 15 have opened. With revenue collected from the legal operations, the city cracked down on illegal pot shops, dwindling their numbers from more than 120 to as few as 10.
Dispensary owners and stakeholders in roundtable discussions in May 2016 and last February provided recommendations for code amendments that would help their businesses succeed. The amendments approved Tuesday will “treat the collectives/cooperatives similar to other establishments where prescription drugs are sold,” the staff report states.
“I do think it’s important that we revisit this issue periodically and I don’t think these will be the only adjustments in the near future,” said Councilman Vincent Sarmiento, who led efforts to implement the modifications.
Licensed shops were projected to generate $1.5 million this fiscal year, but are on track for $2.5 million, “so they are doing really well, continuing to grow,” Councilman Jose Solorio said. The approved amendments will increase revenue the city receives and with one or two more dispensaries permitted, the annual revenue could grow to at least $3.5 million, he said.
Councilman Juan Villegas said, “For the record, I’m not a fan of the marijuana industry, but as professionals we need to be fair to all the legal establishments.”
After a review by the City Attorney’s Office, references to testing, research and development facilities were removed. Those matters are expected to be revisited.
The amendments return to the council for final approval July 5.
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