After years of cracking down on illegal pot shops, the city of Chula Vista announced Friday that they have all been shut down, plus it gave details about efforts to approve legal dispensaries.
At one point, the city of Chula Vista had over 27 illegal marijuana dispensaries operating in the community, but on August 28, the last illegal marijuana dispensary was closed, the city said.
“These operations were loaded with illegal products, millions in cash and guns. They were a source of crime and disorder including multiple violent crimes,” said Chula Vista Police Chief Roxana Kennedy.
Between February and August, detectives served 30 search warrants to illegal dispensaries in Chula Vista. This resulted in 26 arrests, over $34 million in products seized, over $6 million in cash seized, and 23 firearms recovered and over 100 advisories and warnings were issued by the district attorney to those involved in dispensary operations but were not arrested, Kennedy said.
Last year, the Neighborhood Protection Unit (NPU), funded by a voter-approved half-cent sales tax, was formed to help shut down all unlicensed marijuana dispensaries operating illegally within the city and to criminally prosecute those involved.
City of Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas said the city had just finished Phase 1 of the licensing process for cannabis businesses. The city of Chula Vista had rejected every proposed pot shop in its first batch of applications since it started accepting applications in 2019.
Salas acknowledge the process was lengthy but said they wanted to ensure they had the best possible owners and managers for the businesses.
Under Chula Vista City ordinance, every City Council District will have the maximum of two storefront retail businesses and three Council Districts will have a retail delivery business. The city is also processing licenses for cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, and testing facilities, Salas said.
"These legal cannabis businesses will operate very differently than the illegal shops," Salas said.
Only storefronts will be able to have public access and must have safety plans approved by the Chula Vista Police Department. Hours of operations will be limited and stores can only sell to those 21 years or older, Salas explained.
Kelley K. Bacon Deputy City Manager for the City of Chula Vista confirmed to NBC 7 that 11 different retail and delivery services have been approved to start selling marijuana. It was a long permitting process as the city received up to 136 applications.
While it's quite possible more illegal shops will open in the months ahead, they'll have to compete with those legal dispensaries already approved.
“One way to keep these illegal shops closed is to provide safe and controlled legal access to cannabis,” Salas said.
Once all of the newly licensed businesses are up and running, the local sales and cannabis taxes are expected to generate $6 to $10 million of new revenue to the city every year.