National City Green-Lights Cannabis Lounges

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While many municipalities around San Diego have approved medical marijuana dispensaries and retail sales locations, National City has become the first in the county to approve lounges for the consumption of the drug.

The South Bay city on Tuesday approved the ordinance, which permits retail sales as well. The approval came after six people spoke in opposition during the public comment period of the City Council meeting.

In the end, the council approved Ordinance No. 2021 by a vote of 4-1, over the opposition of Councilman Ron Morrison, who had proposed a motion to proceed with the other elements of the ordinance but rezone the lounges to bring them in line with other businesses.

"This is an opportunity to help bring new business in but also to thinking creatively," said Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, National City Mayor.

The cannabis lounges can only be opened in National City’s Tourist Commercial Zone, which is a small irregularly shaped area west of Interstate 5, south of Bay Marina Drive, east of Tidelands Avenue and in the area around the marina.

Currently, the area is mostly occupied by parking lots and industrial buildings. Per the ordinance, “ ‘Consumption lounge’ means an area that is part of the premises of a state-licensed, locally permitted commercial cannabis retail business.” At this point, that doesn't appear to present a lot of options for locations.

"What it looks like is when a person walks in they have an employee that will walk them through the product, the level, the intensity, whether it is an edible or another type of product then they will have the opportunity to consume it," Sotelo-Solis said.

The city, not surprisingly, had lots to say about the specifics of the lounges, namely:

  • Alcohol and tobacco consumption in the lounges is prohibited
  • Patrons must be 21 or older
  • Cannabis consumption cannot be seen from outside the lounge
  • No BYOC – patrons have to buy their cannabis on-site
  • Lounges can sell food
  • A security guard must be working during the hours of operation
  • Approval of permits is dependent upon a “anti-drugged driving plan”
Chula Vista has closed dozens of illegal marijuana dispensaries but on 4/20, they welcomed their first legal one. NBC 7's Joe Little was there for the opening.

National City’s ordinance goes into force June 3, 2021, 30 days after its passage.

If a cannabis lounge were to open in National City, it would be the first in the county, though not the state. Weed bars are open in Los Angeles and other cities as well.

At a federal level, marijuana is still a Schedule 1 controlled substance, though Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has proposed decriminalization on a national level by next year on April 20 – that’s 4/20, a “holiday” celebrated by users.

Cannabis is legal for recreational use in 15 states and the nation’s capital, while medical marijuana is legal in three dozen states.

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