BELLFLOWER WILL CONSIDER RECREATIONAL CANNABIS PERMITS

BY TAMMYE MCDUFF

When the city of Bellflower began to contemplate commercial cannabis activity in 2016, the City Council held true to their pledge and limited the licenses to medical cannabis activity.  This was based upon various studies suggesting that cannabis and related products could alleviate various ailments in patients, such as cancer treatment.

After obtaining voter approval to implement a cannabis tax in 2017, the City Council continued to develop permitting regulations, with the first medical cannabis business permits [MCBP] issued in December 2017.  Permittees with MCBP’s have since been working with the City to open their businesses and begin operations.

Despite the effort only two dispensaries, out of twelve permits, have opened, one storefront and one distribution facility. With that meager opening, the sales figures and expected tax revenue from these facilities continue to fall short of estimated totals. 

Revenues were anticipated to be approximately $1.8 million per year, however this was recently reduced to approximately $1 million. 

The City has implemented various policies in an attempt to accelerate cannabis operations in order to generate additional tax revenue. 

If Council allows the existing four cannabis dispensaries to convert their existing MCBP’s into recreational cannabis business permits, it is estimated that average annual cannabis tax revenue would increase by $600,000.  Allowing all twelve permittees would increase tax revenues by $1.4 million.

Based upon feedback from permittees regarding the ‘unsustainability’ of medical only cannabis businesses, the City Council is contemplating allowing cannabis business permits to be issued for recreational cannabis.

City Manager Jeff Stewart told HMG-LCCN, “We are not thrilled to bring this item to you. The idea behind allowing the four dispensaries was economic in nature and aimed to replace funding lost to the state. We had good data and it should have all worked out. But it didn’t. We are concerned that the business owners will not make it, based on solely on medicinal marijuana,” 

Stewart went on to state that the market had completely changed when the State began to crack down on license standards and renewals.

“If we don’t collect the taxes from the revenue that was originally expected, and we look to balance a budget and not cut any services, then you are very well looking at adding a tax to all the residents in order to maintain the economics that we have enjoyed these last few years.”

Former councilman and Mayor Scott Larsen spoke during public comment stating, “Recreational use is happening. It’s just a matter of where they buy the product. Adding recreational to the permits is not going to increase the usage in our city by much.”“We have gone through a long learning process, if we were able to turn back the clock, we would be adding many more regulations,” said Mayor Sonny Santa Ines, ”I had my doubts about this, and I want it to on record that I am not okay with recreational marijuana.”

The motion was made to direct staff to draw a resolution to allow recreational marijuana use in the city of Bellflower with Councilmen Dunton, Koops, and Hamada voting yes, Mayor Ines voting no, and Mayor pro tem Garza recusing.

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