CA: Pasadena’s Marijuana Measure Would Ban Existing Dispensaries, But Those Businesses Still Say ‘Vote Yes’

Photo Credit: Walt Mancini

In the war over legal weed in Pasadena, opposing sides are surprisingly advocating for the same thing.

It is illegal to operate a marijuana dispensary in Pasadena, although 13 currently are open for business, according to the online directory WeedMaps. Passage of Proposition 64 in 2016, however, has reopened the debate.

On one side is the City Council, which is advocating for a more restrictive approach that would allow six dispensaries in the city while simultaneously banning collectives and dispensaries that have been operating without a license. Officials have taken this tact as a preemptive strike against a possible ballot initiative with what they fear would be far more liberal policies.

On the other side is a citizens group known as Pasadena Patients for Safe Neighborhoods, which has thrown its support behind the businesses to which they’ve already grown loyal.

But Shaun Szameit, president of the Golden State Collective — one of the already-operating businesses at the center of the tussle — said on Friday that voters should approve the measure that City Council placed on the June ballot, even though his collective is one that would be banned.

That’s not to say the city’s measure is ideal, he said. “Unfortunately, there are some inconsistencies with it, and some things that need to be amended,” Szameit said. “However, to vote no on cannabis would be basically proving the city correct that it’s not wanted in the city, so therefore we must push it to pass and request amendments.”

Szameit spoke alongside Mayor Terry Tornek in a panel discussion on the issue held in the crowded back room at Du-par’s Restaurant and Bakery on Friday morning.

As local attorney Dale Gronemeier, who moderated the discussion, put it: People who want to see fewer restrictions on marijuana “should hold your nose and vote yes” on the city’s measure.

For the city’s part, Tornek said the proposal was crafted as a way to give most residents what they say they want. Almost two-thirds of Pasadena voted to approve legalizing recreational marijuana statewide in 2016, he said, so “there’s evidence that the people of Pasadena do want to have access to cannabis.”

But after soliciting community input on how it should be implemented, he said it became clear that “among those who would like to see it happen … it’s sort of a NIMBY thing, ‘Yeah, it’d be a good idea to be able to buy it in Pasadena, but not down the street from my house.’”

So the proposal for limited access caters to those desires, he said. The city’s proposal, which is revenue-neutral, would allow only one operator in each council district and ban any marijuana businesses from opening within 600 feet of residential neighborhoods, schools, churches and parks.

The city would choose the vendors with a panel and interview process, using yet-to-be-determined criteria. Businesses that have previously operated in the city without a license, such as Golden State Collective, would be ineligible to participate.

The city rushed to get its proposal on the June ballot, ahead of a citizen-led effort — now on hold — which was aiming to place a measure on the November ballot. That initiative would have generated more money for the city by directing 4 percent of gross receipts to local schools and 6 percent to the city’s general fund.

It would have allowed for City Council to choose the number of dispensaries, but it would carve out a path for some that are currently operating to become legal. The dispensaries would be allowed in any area designated for general commercial use, subject to state distance requirements.

Szameit said the way forward for those who would like to see fewer restrictions than the city’s measure would allow is to vote yes and be vocal at City Council meetings to advocate for amendments. If the measure fails, or council members fail to amend the plan to the citizen group’s liking, Szameit said they will restart their movement to call for a November ballot measure.

“We’re not stopping,” he said. “We’re going to continue to push for this.”