CA: Costa Mesa Moves Toward Allowing Recreational Marijuana Businesses

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Photo Credit: Los Angeles Times

Costa Mesa City Council members voted unanimously Tuesday night, with little discussion, to advance a code amendment that would allow development, manufacturing, research and testing of recreational marijuana products in the same area of the city where medical marijuana businesses are already permitted.

Like their medicinal counterparts, recreational marijuana businesses would be restricted to the area north of South Coast Drive and west of Harbor Boulevard. They also would be subject to the same permitting process and restrictions.

Measure X — an initiative passed by local voters in 2016 — requires operators to obtain a business license, a marijuana business permit and a conditional use permit before they can set up shop in town.

Retail sales of marijuana and marijuana products are still prohibited in Costa Mesa.

The purpose of the code change is to “basically bring the existing medical marijuana provisions in line with what was approved by the voters under Proposition 64,” said city senior planner Mel Lee, referring to the 2016 state initiative that allows people 21 and older to legally possess, use and grow marijuana for recreational purposes.

During the council’s brief discussion Tuesday, members indicated they were interested in potentially scrapping a provision of Measure X that stipulates marijuana businesses cannot be within 500 feet of Moon Park at 3377 California St.

Because the park is on the other side of the 405 Freeway, the buffer covers only a small pocket in the southwest corner of the Measure X zone.

“Essentially we have a little island of land surrounded by nothing but marijuana uses, and it seems a little odd,” Mayor Sandy Genis said. “I believe it stemmed from a concern I had about Moon Park but, looking at it, it seems kind of goofy, to be honest.”

Councilman Jim Righeimer said the separation requirement has “caused major problems” because non-marijuana-related business tenants might not want to be in an area that’s rapidly becoming dominated by such facilities.

“I don’t think it’s needed anymore,” he said of the buffer.

Marijuana businesses have been lining up to open in Costa Mesa. The Planning Commission has approved plans for six, and 14 more applications are working through the city’s review process.

Another code amendment that won council support Tuesday would essentially make permanent an urgency ordinance passed last year to prohibit retail sales of marijuana and marijuana products and establishment of dispensaries and limit marijuana cultivation to the extent possible under state law.

Both code changes will return to the council for final adoption at a later date.

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