Nearly seven months ago, Councilwoman Ginna Escobar requested Pomona look into regulating cannabis operations as a form of generating much-needed revenues for the city’s coffers as well as creating resources to crack down on illegal shops.
Last week, the city council decided to proceed with drafting an ordinance permitting medicinal and recreational marijuana operations. Just how that mandate will look still needs to be decided.
Elected officials directed staff to bring back a checklist of key topics for the council to consider. Once the options have been narrowed down, staff will have a better sense of what guidelines to use for the draft ordinance, City Manager Linda Lowry explained.
Escobar did not hesitate when describing the type of cannabis operators she’d like to see in the city.
“We want Nordstrom-caliber operators,” she stated Monday night.
The city banned commercial marijuana operations in late 2017 – it was a move at the time to buy the city more time and ultimately give city leaders the final say in what type of operators could be allowed.
Now there is a sense of urgency after a resident-backed initiative to overturn the ban is one step closer to getting on the November ballot. The measure proposes to amend Pomona’s zoning code to allow commercial cannabis use by creating two zones: a self-described “safety access cannabis” zone in the middle of downtown and pockets of industrial area throughout the city.
According to Escobar, there are at least a dozen illegal shops operating in the city. Taxpayer money is currently being spent trying to shut them down.
“We should be legitimizing a business that is currently operating in the dark,” she said.
As City Attorney Norma Capado advised during her lengthy presentation at last week’s meeting, the council would need to determine the following:
- Will the city allow medicinal marijuana, adult use, or both
- What types of businesses does it want in its jurisdiction?
- Is there a cap on how many operators will be allowed to conduct business in Pomona?
- What is the review and approval process?
One thing the council does not want is the proposed initiative being backed by two residents. Escobar said she felt it would be a poor move to allow cannabis businesses in the downtown. She also scoffed at the $250 permit license, adding she would have the license fee set at either $40,000 or $50,000.
If it were up to Escobar, she said she’d prefer to see operations allowed in districts 1 and 5.
Mayor Tim Sandoval acknowledged he has had his reservations about the topic and was glad the council waited. Going forward, he asked his colleagues to tread very carefully on how many businesses are allowed.
“There will be a social cost, in a city that is already dealing with real social issues,” he said, referring to homelessness and human trafficking. “We always have the option to expand but you don’t have the option to go back.”
But Councilman Robert Torres said he sees the ordinance as an opportunity to improve enforcement measures. While he’s optimistic it could bring new revenues to the city, he said, that isn’t his motivating factor for supporting an ordinance.
His goal is that Pomona “setup a legislative policy in place that allows the city to have a certain set of standards in place and we can begin cracking down on illegal businesses.”
“If we don’t establish some type of enforcement mechanism it’s going to be the Wild West in Pomona,” he said.
Just then, someone in the crowd blurted out, “It already is!”
The council is expected to review their option at the next council meeting, June 18.