Imperial Beach moved closer to regulating recreational marijuana, with the City Council voting 3-2 on Wednesday night to place an ordinance that would allow one dispensary to open on the July 18 agenda for a final vote.

They were originally scheduled to vote during the June 20 meeting but decided to push it back to allow for more public comment.

Council members Lorie Bragg and Robert Patton opposed the measure. Bragg supports prohibition and Patton wanted to postpone the vote because he was reconsidering his support.

Patton’s change of opinion comes partly because a citizen’s initiative that would have allowed more cannabis businesses in Imperial Beach likely won’t be on the November ballot because of a technical error.

Patton said he felt bullied to support Imperial Beach’s scaled-down regulations because he didn’t like the citizen initiative.

But now that the measure likely won’t be on the November ballot, Patton says he no longer feels pressured to support regulation and wants time to reconsider.

“We felt like we were under the gun, like we had to do this,” he said. “But I don’t know if it’s right and I’m definitely having some big reservations with this whole process.”

Imperial Beach has been studying and working on marijuana regulations since the state legalized commercial use through Proposition 64 in November 2016.

Soon after Prop 64. passed, the city issued a moratorium on commercial cannabis businesses. The idea behind the moratorium was that explicitly forbidding cannabis businesses would deter unlicensed dispensaries from opening in Imperial Beach and let the city control if and how they want to regulate.

Those regulations are set to expire in February 2019. City staff wants the council to come up with regulations before then.

The regulations Imperial Beach’s City Council is scheduled to vote on July 18 includes a $10,000 application fee, a vetting process that requires applicants to show they have $300,000 in liquid assets, a detailed security plan, a background check, a location that’s not within 900 feet of a school or park, and at least one manager with previous experience in the cannabis industry.

The regulations don’t call for a marijuana tax. Instead, the city plans to issue administrative fines that will cover the costs of regulating the business.

Originally, the staff recommended a final vote on June 20. But the council chose to move it back to give time for more public comment.

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