Tension Brewing: Amid licensing debate, Pasadena residents file petition to legalize unlicensed dispensaries Amid licensing debate, Pasadena residents file petition to legalize unlicensed dispensaries

The residents of Pasadena are currently in a battle with city leadership over who will be eligible to open a dispensary. Pasadena law currently allows for six licensed cannabis dispensaries, but the program excludes operators from already-existing illegal dispensaries from participating. Undeterred, unlicensed dispensary operators resorted to one final push to stay in business, via a petition.

The debate has been ongoing for at least a year. On June 5, 2018, Pasadena City Council received final approvals for a strict set of restrictions and licensing requirements, capping the number of licensed retail shops at six. A grading system was created for new applicants who wish to enter the licensing process. Among the restrictions is a provision that bans operators of existing or past illegal dispensaries from participating in the program altogether. But residents and the operators behind dispensaries that hadn’t been approved have one final trick up their sleeves—a petition to put into motion. On Feb. 11, petitioners submitted the needed paperwork to the city clerk to initiate the process.

In addition, a separate petition was initiated to trigger a recall campaign against Pasadena Councilman Victor Gordo. Gordo was responsible for developing a substantial part of the language in the city’s dispensary rules, but his version was ill-received by local residents. The petition to recall Gordo’s campaign initially gained 88 signatures, but it was ultimately scrapped on Feb. 28 after petitioners failed to meet a deadline. Now, petitioners are trying a new tactic.

This time, petition organizers need at least 8,542 valid signatures in order to qualify for the city’s municipal ballot on March 3, 2020. By the latest count, they had well over 12,900 signatures. Proponents turned in the last remaining required signatures on July 31, according to a memo City Clerk Mark Jomsky sent to councilmembers.

Public Information Officer Lisa Derderian from the Pasadena City Manager’s Office provided CULTURE with a statement regarding the unfolding petition process. “The initiative petition received by the City is in the process of being verified by the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk to determine whether the proponents gathered the requisite number of signatures to be deemed sufficient,” the City Manager’s Office stated. “Following its review, the County will notify the city regarding the petition’s sufficiency. If found to be sufficient, the City Clerk will then certify the sufficiency of the petition to the City Council.”

It’s highly unlikely the city will immediately adopt the petition, but officials could do that or go a different route. “At that point, the City Council can do one of three things: 1) adopt the ordinance without alteration, 2) submit the ordinance to the voters without alteration, or 3) order a report by City staff to be presented within 30 days of the City Clerk’s certification on the effects of the proposed initiative,” the statement reads. “Following the report, the City Council must either adopt the ordinance without alteration or submit the ordinance to the voters without alteration.”

“The initiative petition received by the City is in the process of being verified by the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk to determine whether the proponents gathered the requisite number of signatures to be deemed sufficient.”

 

Meanwhile, the cannabis community in Pasadena continues to make its mark. Scheduled for Sept. 23-24, CannMed 2019 will be held at the Pasadena Convention Center with a keynote from Raphael Mechoulam.

There are several more legal challenges to the city’s mode of operation. According to local reports, at least 11 lawsuits were filed against the city regarding the dispensary licensing process. With only six available licenses, tensions are high as everybody wants a way to participate in the industry.

 

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