The Chula Vista City Council approved the results of Measure Q, a November ballot measure that called for the end to the recreational marijuana prohibition in city limits and set the groundwork for tax structure within the industry.
Sixty-four percent of Chula Vistans who participated in the last election voted in favor of the measure, but a City Council meeting Tuesday revealed there was a bit of confusion among some of them.
Two women who spoke at the meeting said they were under the impression Measure Q would help fund regulations of current illegal shops, not allow for more shops to open legally. Part of that is true.
The passing of the measure means that licensed dispensaries can open up and the city can tax manufacturing, cultivation and testing sites, as well as dispensaries and delivery services anywhere from 5 to 15 percent.
Some of the revenue from the tax will go toward setting up an enforcement unit focused on regulating legal pot shops and shutting down illegal ones. The rest of the revenue will go into the general fund.
But opening a new legal dispensary won’t be simple.
Every applicant will have to pass a criminal background check, financial check, and have their site approved through a permit process. They’ll also need a plan for security and money handling.
And Measure Q stipulates an eight-dispensary maximum in the city. If the maximum is reached then only four additional delivery services will be allowed. The city says owners of shops currently operating illegally will not be allowed to apply.
Long-time recreational and medical marijuana advocate Ken Sobel says the way the city has handled itself is impressive.
“The city of Chula Vista has handled this issue better than probably anywhere else in the United States, and that includes many states that I have been involved in,” he said.
But neighbors’ concerns extend past where the pot is sold. The thought of testing sites and manufacturing and cultivation plants sprouting in the city worries them, too.
“It seems reckless that the marijuana regulations allow for so many commercial marijuana production sites, like pot grows and edible factories,”
The city says manufacturing, cultivation and testing will be limited to industrial-zoned sites only, and those establishments will have to qualify for a permit.
The City Council reserves the power to raise civil fines on illegal pot shops which would provide more of a deterrent for illegal operators and additional money for law enforcement.
Sobel says a regulated industry will be the safest bet for the community, and will provide an economic lift.
“These products will be made by Chula Vistans. They will take home their paychecks, they will buy houses or rent houses. They will go to their local stores,” he said.
The city didn’t provide any estimates of future tax revenue, but the city of San Diego recently confirmed its Cannabis Business Tax, implemented in January, has brought in more than $3.6 million in the first three quarters of 2018.
Chula Vista says they have shut down 40 illegal businesses in the past three years.
The City Council adopted Measure Q with a 4-1 vote. The only councilmember who opposed was John McCann.
Pro-marijuana legislation was also passed in Vista and La Mesa.