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Grover Beach moves toward regulating and taxing medical marijuana

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Grover Beach is rethinking its stance on medical marijuana and moving toward regulating and taxing commercial medical cannabis in the city.

The members of the City Council met July 5 and gave staff direction to begin working on ordinances to regulate commercial medical marijuana businesses, and also directed them to bring the council options for a possible ballot measure to tax the sale of medical marijuana in the city.

The move was a change of course for the council, who previously voted to ban commercial cultivation of medical marijuana earlier this year. 

“I definitely think it’s time to get engaged with this from a compassionate standpoint, as well as from a revenue standpoint,” Councilmember Barbara Nicolls said.

The regulations would cover a wide range of commercial medical cannabis businesses, including cultivation, production, and testing operations, as well as mobile delivery services and brick-and-mortar dispensaries. City staff indicated that it would take roughly six months to draft those regulations and get them through the normal approval process, which includes public hearings and a vote by the City Council.

There will be far more urgency should the city choose to pursue a medical marijuana tax measure. Taxes have to be approved by voters via ballot initiatives. According to City Attorney Martin Koczanowicz, the council needs to vote to place a tax measure on the ballot buy Aug. 1 to get it before Grover Beach voters for the November 2016 elections. If they can’t do that, the council will have to wait until the 2018 elections to try again.

“I really don’t want to miss the boat on this tax initiative,” Councilmember Mariam Shah said.

Grover Beach Mayor John Shoals questioned moving forward with a tax measure on such a tight timeline.

“We don’t necessarily have to move forward with a tax measure at this time, given the short time frame,” Shoals said. 

At the meeting, the council directed city staff to come back to the council with further options for a tax at their July 18 meeting.

A number of representatives from medical cannabis companies looking to do business in Grover Beach attended the meeting and urged the council to welcome the industry with open arms. Brandon Gesicki, a political consultant representing two unnamed clients interested in the medical cannabis businesses, urged the council to follow other cities that are passing regulations on the industry and moving forward with tax measures, such as Santa Barbara and King City. 

“It could be an opportunity for the city,” Gesicki said. “They’re getting ahead of the curve.” 

Grover Beach’s deliberations come on the heels of neighboring Arroyo Grande’s decision to allow and regulate personal cultivation and mobile delivery medical marijuana services. While Arroyo Grande’s ordinances don’t go into effect until July 14, Community Development Director Teresa McClish said the city has already received calls requesting information.

“As such, the current ban on mobile dispensaries remains in place and we are not taking any applications at this time,” McClish wrote in an email to New Times. “When a formal permitting process has been established, it will be announced on the city’s website.” 

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