California Weed

Sacramento is one step closer to having recreational pot sales on Jan. 1

The Sacramento City Council late Tuesday approved marijuana sales for recreational use, possibly making Sacramento one of the first places in California with retail weed on Jan. 1.

The council voted 9-0 to allow medical marijuana dispensaries to apply for permits to sell marijuana commercially to adults 21 and older. The ordinance also allows for a new type of business – delivery dispensaries, which will be able to store cannabis and bring it to customers but will not have storefronts.

Cities and counties across the state continue to debate whether to allow recreational sales. The 2016 proposition legalizing marijuana gave local governments the authority to ban or regulate pot sales.

Of the state’s 10 largest cities, San Diego, San Jose, Oakland and Sacramento have approved ordinances allowing retail sales of pot. San Francisco approved an ordinance Tuesday that awaits the mayor’s signature, but isn’t expected to allow sales until Jan. 5. Long Beach and Los Angeles are considering regulations, while retail sales have been banned in Fresno, Bakersfield and Anaheim.

Sacramento’s pot czar, Joe Devlin, said all of the city’s 30 existing dispensaries are interested in selling marijuana commercially. They can start applying for city permits Wednesday, but they will also have to get a license from the state Bureau of Cannabis Control. The state is soon expected to start issuing temporary licenses.

Devlin said a few of the dispensaries will not meet the city’s requirements to become retail establishments and may also lose their permits to sell medical marijuana. Some dispensaries ran afoul of Devlin and council members because of a city audit that found instances of under-reported tax revenue and violations of city regulations, including smoking weed on-site and selling too many plants.

Devlin said retail permits will not be granted to dispensaries that are in violation of city regulations. Councilman Jeff Harris said Devlin’s assurances convinced him to vote in favor of recreational pot sales.

Officials are still trying to figure out if they can get businesses licensed to sell by Jan. 1, when state law allows for commercial sales. Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said he hopes meet with Lori Ajax of the Bureau of Cannabis Control to see what arrangements can be made.

The Sacramento council capped the number of dispensaries at 30, effectively limiting any new businesses that want to enter the retail marijuana sales market. Some council members and some speakers at the meeting said they did not approve of what they called a monopoly.

At Devlin’s suggestion, the council agreed to revisit the cap in the first three months of next year.

Councilman Larry Carr said the cap is an impediment for minorities who want to get into the business.

Removing such barriers has been a priority for city leaders. The Sacramento City Council on Tuesday also approved an equity program designed to help minorities, women and veterans in the new marijuana industry. The program includes a business support center and fee waivers. Some members of the African American community said the city needed to create more financial incentives, including a loan program.

Steinberg and others on the council said they would consider additional funding for the program in later years. Steinberg said communities victimized by the war on drugs should be at the “front of the line” to profit from legalized weed.

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