If it were approved by the voters, an initiative that aims to overthrow Pomona’s ban on marijuana activity would create a regional cannabis supercenter, spur oversight inconsistencies and become a financial burden to the city, according to a 15-page analysis provided to the City Council this week.
City leaders requested the report in an effort to understand the full impacts of the proposed measure known as the Cannabis Act at its Aug. 6 meeting, a move that prevented the Cannabis Act from making it on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The act proposes to amend Pomona’s zoning code to allow commercial cannabis in two zones:
- A self-described “safety access cannabis” zone in the middle of downtown;
- And pockets of industrial areas throughout the city.
The city banned commercial marijuana operations in late 2017.
“The Act intends to provide a regulatory framework for commercial cannabis activities in the City, it is so poorly written that the City would incur great difficulty trying to implement it, were it to pass,” the report to the council stated.
The council agreed to receive and file the analysis Monday night, with no discussion, and place the cannabis act on the ballot for the next general election, which won’t happen until November 2020. The request for the report drew criticism from one of the proponents of the measure who wanted to see the initiative on the November ballot. The item passed 6-1, Councilwoman Ginna Escobar abstained.
Earlier this year, after backers of the initiative started collecting signatures, Pomona began the process to adopt its own ordinance that would regulate cannabis operations to drum up much-needed revenues for the city’s depleted coffers as well as creating resources to crack down on illegal shops.
“Staff has worked at great lengths over the last several weeks with consultants to package this impact report,” said Kirk Pelser, Pomona’s deputy city manager.
The impact report found discrepancies and conflicts that would negatively impact the city. For example, while the act only allows for six retailers, the majority would be concentrated within 24 blocks of the downtown area.
“If enough applicants were to step forward, the City would have no ability to stop this area from becoming a regional ‘cannabis supercenter.’ This kind of excessive concentration of ;controversial’ businesses is not unheard of,” according to the report
The act proposed a $250 application fee which wouldn’t even be enough to cover Pomona’s costs, according to figures in the report. HdL, the consultant for Pomona, found that the permit process for allowing a cannabis business is not only complex, but varied from county or city. The common range per applicant fee was $2,500.
Based on HdL’s experience, it is “believed a more reasonably comparable program for the City of Pomona may involve 75 hours of combined staff time for each cannabis businesses, with a total annual cost of $8,439 for each business.”
That figure jumps to $11,000 for each business in the first year, when the city takes into account ongoing compliance and enforcement costs to the upfront permit review costs.
“Under the Act, the only cost that the City would likely be able to recover would be a $250 application fee, which would be unlikely to cover the cost of a ministerial zoning clearance,” the report stated.
It’s also likely that high concentration of businesses in one area would result in traffic issues, as well as the threat of pushing out existing business. The current lease rate in Pomona is between $1 to $1.25 per square foot of retail in the downtown area, however, cannabis retailers are willing to pay $10 per square foot, the report found.
Mayor Tim Sandoval said the analysis was incredibly insightful.
“I’m glad the City Council did its due diligence and made this request,” he said.