Pot Shop Restrictions Loosened

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Malibu City Hall

The Malibu Planning Commission Monday tweaked the seven-year-old marijuana dispensary ordinance for the first time since its inception into the Malibu Municipal Code in Summer 2008, slashing the distance required between pot shops to 250 feet, down from 1000, and completely removing the requirement that shops are not to dispense alcohol and pot on a lot together.

“Adults have the right to kind of make their own choices,” said Commissioner Mikke Pierson, regarding the decision to strike language limiting pot and alcohol from being sold “on site.”

“I agree with you, and that was my position when we passed this thing the first time,” said Commissioner Jeffrey Jennings, who together with Commissioner John Mazza and now-Councilmember Joan House sat on the Planning Commission during the 2008 drawing of the ordinance.

The ordinance, which was originally sent back to Planning Department staff in late 2014 in order that they tweak language to allow a proposed marijuana dispensary to operate next door to the Colony House Liquor store on Pacific Coast Highway, underwent an overhaul at the meeting, during which commissioners spent approximately two hours hearing arguments and deliberating on changes to the language.

The complete schedule of changes is as follows:

-The use shall not be located within a two hundred fifty (250) foot radius of any other medical marijuana dispensary located within or outside the city. (Changed from a 1000-foot radius.)

-Security guards shall be provided at all entrances and exits of the dispensary tenant space during all hours of operation. (Changed from “security guards shall be provided at the main entrance and exits.”)

-Dispensaries shall notify patrons of the following verbally and through posting of a sign in a conspicuous location within the dispensary tenant space. (Changed from “… a conspicuous location on the project site.”)

-No smoking, vaporization or consumption of medical marijuana in any form is permitted within the dispensary tenant space. (Changed from “patrons must immediately leave the site and not consume medical marijuana until at home or in an equivalent private location.”)

-There shall be no sales of alcohol or tobacco, and no consumption of alcohol, or smoking, vaporization or consumption of tobacco in any form, within the dispensary tenant space. (Changed from “there shall be no onsite sales of alcohol or tobacco, and no onsite consumption of food, alcohol, tobacco or marijuana.”)

-The dispensary tenant space shall be shown to be, accessible to persons with disabilities. Accessibility must be in conformance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Changed from no mention of ADA accessibility.)

Members of the public came to speak on both sides of the issue, specifically pertaining to whether or not the proposed pot shop could operate in a lot that also contains a liquor store.

Malibu mom Jacqueline Strong spoke to Commissioners, claiming to represent other mothers who oppose the location of the pot shop, but not all marijuana dispensaries.

“Having a dispensary next to a liquor store would be a travesty for our City and clearly not what the writer of the ordinance had in mind,” Strong said.

Following Strong, Karen Elias, a supporter of the use of medical cannabis and longtime cannabis worker, refuted Strong’s statements.

“CVS pharmacy actually contains a liquor store,” Elias said.

“In our culture, I believe society is perfectly OK with the combination of pharmacy and liquor store.”

Though Commissioners replied with a degree of sarcasm to the claim that medical pot shops operate identically like pharmacies, they nonetheless directed that the ordinance allow these businesses to operate more like other retailers in the City.

As for the distance between two pot shops, Commissioners discussed whether it was intended to protect against a “ghetto” of marijuana dispensaries, an idea widely scoffed at on the dias.

“My recommendation is to either get rid of it, or reduce it to something that doesn’t mean anything either,” Chair Brotman suggested to Commissioners.

“It was specifically put in to make it hard … At the time, they didn’t want to make it competitive. It makes no sense,” Mazza agreed.

The distance requirement was knocked down to 250 feet.

Though various elements of the ordinance changes were voted down by commissioners, such as Commissioner Roohi Stack voting against the smaller 250-foot distance rule between shops and Mazza voting against ADA-compliance language that doesn’t include specific requirements for a lift or ramp into a second floor, the ordinance as a whole won a rare 5-0 approval by Commission.

The pared-down ordinance will now go before Council for final ratification.