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Costa Mesa medical marijuana measure allows manufacturing and distribution, but no dispensaries

| Jul 7, 2016 | News

by Louis Casiano Kr. // OC Register

COSTA MESA – A city-sponsored medical marijuana initiative that would allow research, development, processing and wholesale distribution of certain marijuana products, but no dispensaries, will be on the November ballot.

In a 4-1 vote Tuesday night, with Councilwoman Katrina Foley opposing, the council approved language for the measure, which will compete with two resident-sponsored medical marijuana measures that allow four or eight dispensaries.

“The kind of people that are going to be in there are wearing white lab coats not tattered blue jeans,” Councilman Jim Righeimer said Wednesday. “The industry needs this.”

Statewide, only Oakland authorizes medical marijuana processing and manufacturing, according to a city staff report.
If the city’s measure is passed, medical marijuana businesses would be required to obtain city permits and would be located in an industrial zone north of South Coast Drive and West of Harbor Boulevard and at least 500 feet from Moon Park. No retail sales will be allowed.

No one under 21 would be allowed to enter the businesses. Because the initiative garnered four council votes, the council can levy a 6 percent tax on the businesses, officials said.

The city’s measure is a way to gain control of what medical marijuana businesses operate in the city.

In 2015, the Legislature passed three bills to create a regulatory framework for medical marijuana. These regulations are expected to be developed by 2018, at which time, dispensaries could be allowed in the city, Righeimer said.

“Marijuana’s coming… if we don’t have initiatives here, one of those will pass and we’ll have no control,” he said. “Once the state has their mechanism in place, you can do the dispensaries by ordinance.”

The City Council was prepared to vote on the measure last month, but asked city staff to change some language, specifically that references to dispensaries be deleted, and rewrite the definitions of distributors and manufacturers.

Robert Taft Jr., a Costa Mesa resident and the proponent behind the eight-dispensary initiative, said he supports the city’s measure and has written an argument against his in favor of the city’s to be placed on the ballot.

“We’re making oils for children who have liver cancer… who can’t have anything in their system or they’ll die,” Taft said during public comments. “Having a safe facility to make those medicines, it would be the most important thing to me.”

A medical marijuana initiative proposed by Councilman Gary Monahan in 2014 failed to get enough votes from the council to bring it to a ballot.
The law would have allowed dispensaries and prohibited on-site recommendations from doctors.

The council Tuesday also narrowly approved spending $25,000 to send informational mailers to residents about the measure.