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Mayor Garcia signs Long Beach adult-use cannabis ordinance into law

Sales of adult-use cannabis are predicted to begin by August at the earliest.

Surrounded by members of the cannabis industry, Mayor Robert Garcia signs the Long Beach's adult-use cannabis ordinance into law.

Surrounded by members of the cannabis industry, Mayor Robert Garcia signs the Long Beach's adult-use cannabis ordinance into law.

Carlos Villicana | Daily 49er

Carlos Villicana | Daily 49er

Surrounded by members of the cannabis industry, Mayor Robert Garcia signs the Long Beach's adult-use cannabis ordinance into law.

Carlos Villicana, City Editor

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Friday the 13th was a lucky day for cannabis enthusiasts in Long Beach as Mayor Robert Garcia signed the highly anticipated adult-use marijuana ordinance into law.

Garcia signed the act in his city hall office, flanked by a handful of city employees and representatives from the cannabis industry.

“When I was on the council, this was one of the first issues that came up,” Garcia said. “I think you guys worked really hard and I think what’s important is that the voters of Long Beach, on two different occasions, have affirmed that it’s time to move on from this discussion and to have safe, regulated, taxed adult-use cannabis.”

The ordinance, which was originally introduced at the Long Beach City Council’s June 19 meeting, sets rules for businesses wishing to sell recreational marijuana for those who are over 21.

The approval of this ordinance means that the distribution of cannabis via licensed vendors, and its use, are legal. However it is still illegal to use while driving or in public. According to a staff report, August 2018 is the earliest that adult-use cannabis sales could begin.

According to the item’s staff presentation, only existing medical dispensaries can apply for an adult-use license and must sell both from the location it currently uses. This co-location policy will be optional for non-dispensaries such as cultivators, distributors, manufacturers and testing labs — which can apply for a license to sell for medical use, adult-use or both.

Existing medical marijuana locations will also be able to apply for adult-use regardless of where their location lies within zoning requirements. Others will have to abide by restrictions based on what type of business it is classified as.

“Without this exemption, a significant number of medical cannabis businesses will be forced to remain medical cannabis only, placing them at a significant disadvantage in the cannabis market,” said Ajay Kolluri, manager of the city’s cannabis program.

The new policy includes a social equity program, security requirements and hours of operation for in-store and delivery services.

Security alarms and personnel, electronic age verification devices, employee identification badges and 24-hour video surveillance which the city can request at any time are required for all marijuana businesses. Closing time for stores has been set to 9 p.m. while delivery services must cease at 10 p.m.

The social equity program featured in the ordinance is meant to help address the effect which anti-marijuana legislation has had on lower income communities.

At least 40 percent of all annual work hours at a location must be completed by individuals who qualify for the social equity program. To qualify, an individual must be a Long Beach resident who

  • has an annual family income below 80 percent of the area median income and has lived in the city for three years,
  • has an arrest or conviction related to a cannabis-related incident in the city which could’ve been prosecuted as a citation or misdemeanor per current state law or
  • is currently receiving unemployment benefits.

The last requirement is a change made at the request of 5th District councilwoman Stacy Mungo during the second reading of the ordinance on July 10. Mungo voted in favor of the item after this, initially being the only councilmember to not do so on June 19.

“This is a council-driven ordinance [which] we can always come back to make additions, tweak it, evaluate it and make changes – we can always do that,” said Vice Mayor Rex Richardson.

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