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Costa Mesa voters will decide whether to let cannabis shops come to town

Costa Mesa will ask its voters in November whether they want to allow retail cannabis sales in the city in stores and via delivery services, bringing revenue some officials hope could help shore up the city budget.

The city will place a measure on the fall ballot that would allow regulation and taxing of retail cannabis sales and delivery businesses. If approved, it would make Costa Mesa the second Orange County city (along with Santa Ana) to allow cannabis shops.

In 2016, in the same election that saw adult use of cannabis legalized statewide, Costa Mesa’s electorate agreed to let cannabis manufacturing, distribution, research and testing businesses open in the city under Measure X – but it didn’t include storefront sales.

The new measure, which the City Council voted Tuesday, July 21, to send to voters, would allow the city to create rules and a taxing scheme for cannabis shops and delivery services; the businesses would be restricted largely to commercially-zoned properties and could not be within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds, child care centers or homeless shelters.

A city-commissioned poll of more than 400 likely voters found that about two-thirds supported allowing cannabis shops and delivery businesses in Costa Mesa, according to a report to the council.

Cannabis entrepreneurs may welcome having more places in Orange County to open a legal store. Robert Taft Jr., a Costa Mesa resident who owns several licensed cannabis businesses and backed the city-sponsored Measure X, thinks it would be good for customers too.

The cannabis vaping products connected to a rash of lung injuries and deaths reported in 2019 “came from the illicit market” and weren’t subject to regulation or quality control, Taft said.

Costa Mesa has black market pot shops, but the ballot measure would help drive those out and ensure the legal ones are offering safe products, he said – and revenue from the new businesses could help the city fill a big budget hole caused by the economic shutdown.

At the council meeting, Councilman Manuel Chavez noted the potential financial benefits of allowing cannabis shops, calling the ballot measure “one way that we can capitalize on a growing market.”

Under the measure, cannabis sales could be taxed up to 7% and bring in several million dollars a year if about a half dozen shops were permitted, according to the city.

Cannabis businesses have remained open during the coronavirus pandemic, Taft said, and broadening the industry in Costa Mesa would create needed jobs.

Whether voters will go for the measure remains to be seen, but as long-serving Councilwoman Sandra Genis said Tuesday, “When you get coupons for cannabis on the back of your grocery receipt, it’s pretty clear society’s changing.”

Source: Orange County Register

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