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Cerritos Prohibits Delivery of Medical Marijuana in City


 

By Brian Hews and Tammye McDuff

In response to the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA), the Cerritos City Council, at its regular Jan. 28 meeting, approved changes on various sections of the Cerritos Municipal Code, prohibiting the cultivation and delivery of medical marijuana in the City.

The changes amended Section 22.40.300 pertaining to “Medical Marijuana Dispensaries.”

According to the staff report, the Cerritos Municipal Code only regulated medical marijuana dispensaries, where medical marijuana is made available to a primary caregiver or a qualified patient. Medical marijuana dispensaries are outright prohibited within the City of Cerritos.

In addition, mobile medical marijuana dispensaries, including deliveries of medical marijuana via mobile dispensary, are prohibited within the City per the existing Municipal Code.

While regulations exist for medical marijuana dispensaries, no such regulations exist within the Cerritos Municipal Code for the cultivation or commercial delivery of medical marijuana.

The rush to amend the code was in response to State lawmakers correcting what they say was a mistake in California’s first comprehensive medical marijuana regulations, which were adopted in the closing hours of last year’s legislative session.

A paragraph in that 70-page bill gave the State authority to license growers in jurisdictions that do not have their own laws on the books by March 1.

As a result, dozens of cities, such as Cerritos, Artesia, and Downey, and counties seeking to preserve local control over pot have rushed to enact bans on marijuana growing before the deadline.

Some apply only to commercial cultivation, but many would also prohibit personal pot gardens that have been legal — or at least overlooked — for 19 years.

The bill passed both the Assembly and Senate and is on Gov. Brown’s desk for signature.

City Attorney Mark Steres noted, “A bill is currently on the Governors’ desk to lift the current legislation deadline of March 1, 2016. We recommend that the City proceed with the ordinance, it is prudent for the Council to adopt a prohibition of mobile deliveries within the city.”

In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 215, making California the first state to allow the use of medical marijuana. Since then, 22 more states, including the District of Columbia and Guam have enacted related laws.

A total of 23 states now allow for comprehensive public medical marijuana and cannabis programs. Recently, efforts in 17 states allow use of ‘low THC, high cannabidiol (CBD)’ products in limited situations or as a legal defense. Those programs are not counted as comprehensive medical marijuana programs.

At the federal level, marijuana remains classified as a substance under the Controlled Substances Act (Act) where Schedule I substances are considered to have a high potential for dependency and no accepted medical use, which makes the distribution of marijuana a federal offense.

The Act does not recognize any State laws.

The Act prohibits any multi-state Department of Transportation registered delivery companies, such as UPS and Fedex, from delivering marijuana.

Consequently, private delivery companies deliver marijuana direct from the dispensary.

In October of 2009, the Obama Administration sent a memo to federal prosecutors encouraging them not to prosecute people who distribute marijuana for medical purposes in accordance with state law.

In August 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice announced an update to their marijuana enforcement policy. The statement reads, “That while marijuana remains federally illegal, the USDOJ expects states like Colorado and Washington to create strong, state-based enforcement efforts…. and will defer the right to challenge their legalization laws.” The department also reserves the right to challenge the states at any time they feel it’s necessary.

Some of the most common policy questions regarding medical marijuana include how to regulate its recommendation, dispensing, and registration of approved patients.

Some states and localities without dispensary regulations are experiencing a boom in new businesses, in hopes of being approved before presumably stricter regulations are made.

Mayor Pro Tem George Ray commented his hope would be doctors and pharmacists agree to have it dispensed as other medical prescriptions would be. However saying he is going to err on the side of caution, he supported the amendment.

Councilman Mark Pulido seconded the amendment, addressing his concerns which stem from a compassionate point of view for Cerritos residents that need medical marijuana and cannot attain access via delivery saying, “In an abundance of caution and concern I support the amendment this evening, with the allowance of the Council revisit the issue at a later date.”

In other news, the Council approved a bid for resurfacing the CCPA floor to Petra CPS of Placentia in the amount of $244,000. The cost exceeded the budget by $70,000, consequently, the City moved money from the South Street Sewer Rehabilitation Project into the approved project.

The city also awarded a $374,440 contract to Complete Landscape Care for landscaping and irrigation maintenance of center medians and arterial planters; awarded a $320,800 contract to Landcare for landscaping and irrigation maintenance of Assessment District – 6, along with freeway landscape; awarded $53,114 contract to Valley Crest for the landscaping and irrigation maintenance at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, the Cerritos Senior Center, Pat Nixon Park, and other city owned property.

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5 Responses to Cerritos Prohibits Delivery of Medical Marijuana in City

  1. Desert Lover Reply

    February 14, 2016 at 7:18 pm

    Prison town goes to pot: Desert city Adelanto hopes cultivating marijuana will save it

    Adelanto Councilman John “Bug” Woodard Jr. championed the ordinance to bring medical marijuana cultivation to the high desert town.

    The ordinance that allows commercial cultivation of medical marijuana in Adelanto requires growers to make every effort to hire at least half of their workers in the city.

    Adelanto needs all the jobs it can get. Its unemployment rate soared to 22 percent during the recession, and it’s still 9.7 percent, compared with a statewide rate of 5.8 percent.

    Freddy Sayegh, a Los Angeles lawyer who represents three cultivation projects, estimates the new industry will generate 3,000 jobs for the town. His three facilities might account for 500, he said, with workers tending and trimming the plants and providing security, sales and research.

    The newly formed Adelanto Growers Association plans to hold job fairs and offer training. That was good news to Arvin Bowens, 46, a recent transplant to the town and a medical marijuana patient.

    “They need jobs here bad,” Bowens said.

    ADELANTO – On a Wednesday night in December, investors from Orange County and Los Angeles descended on a crumbling outpost that, until then, many had only unwittingly driven past on the way to Las Vegas.

    The outsiders and residents alike packed Adelanto City Hall, eager to weigh in on the City Council’s ongoing debate over its new marijuana ordinance. But when the city attorney announced that Don Kojima of Newport Beach had scored 47 acres of prime city-owned land for just $375,000, men in pricey suits began shouting out offers to pay 10 times that much.

    Welcome to the unlikely land rush that is transforming this desert town.

    Adelanto, known 80 years ago for its fruit trees, is tying its star to another agricultural boom. In November, it became the second city in Southern California to permit commercial cultivation of medical marijuana.

    Since then, land prices have skyrocketed as 27 companies secured permits to grow cannabis in Adelanto warehouses. Two more applications are pending.

    If the city approves conditional use permits, the first several thousand of a potential half-million square feet of marijuana could be growing in Adelanto by summer. At full production, cultivators could churn out roughly 50,000 pounds of marijuana up to six times a year to service California’s growing medical marijuana industry.

    Adding to the surreal scene playing out here are reports of celebrity tie-ins.

    Ky-Mani Marley, one of Bob Marley’s sons, has already signed on to license a strain of cannabis that will be grown there, according to Freddy Sayegh, the attorney on the project. Tommy Chong has also shown interest. So has B-Real of Cypress Hill fame, plus other high-profile musicians and professional athletes whose names are being kept under wraps.

    The rush comes as California rolls out its Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, which creates a licensing program for cannabis businesses including cultivators. But investors are also looking toward November, when California voters are expected to legalize recreational marijuana – with the Golden State projected to dwarf the nearly $1 billion brought in by Colorado’s adult-use market in 2015.

    In Adelanto, supporters see acceptance of an industry that’s still shunned elsewhere as confirmation that the city is living up to its name, which means “progress” in Spanish.

    “Tomorrow, they’ll be on the correct side of history and be recognized as a city that actually embraced safety and embraced something that heals people,” said Randall Longwith, a Fullerton attorney who’s representing 12 Adelanto investors.

    “In my personal opinion,” local real estate agent Elizabeth Brown said, “this is going to save Adelanto.”

    Others, though, see the move as an act of desperation, with the desert city an easy target for yet another controversial industry after years of facing insolvency.

    “It’s just a way for the government to make money,” Tina Owens, 50, said as she loaded her trunk with groceries from Adelanto’s only supermarket.

    ONE TOWN, FOUR PRISONS

    Until last fall, Adelanto was known, if at all, as a prison town.

    Its first prison was built in 1991, as the city braced itself for the closure of nearby George Air Force Base.

    That didn’t stop Adelanto’s long slide into high unemployment and depressed property values. More than a third of the city’s nearly 33,000 residents now live below the poverty line. So it kept welcoming more prisons, banking on the promise of jobs and steady revenue in the form of an annual bed tax.

    There are now four prisons within city limits that house some 3,340 county, state and federal inmates. Another 1,000-bed prison is expected to come up for a vote March 1, city planner Mark de Manincor said. But Adelanto only takes in $160,000 each year from the prisons, which employ roughly 680 people combined.

    Other development schemes also came up short. Green-energy developers targeted Adelanto in hopes of covering its 56 square miles of desert in solar panels that would sell power to utilities. But just four of those projects have panned out, de Manincor said, yielding 400 acres of solar panels, one-time development fees and a handful of jobs.

    In 2010, teetering on bankruptcy, Adelanto sold its first prison, which had been run by the state, to the private firm GEO Group for $28 million. That one-time revenue is still sustaining the city, though the cash is quickly running out.

    Adelanto declared a fiscal emergency and floated a 7.95 percent utility tax on the November 2014 ballot. Residents, whose median household income is just $38,768, responded with a resounding no.

    Then came promises of a new kind of boom.

    ‘IT WAS BROKE’

    Although California legalized medical marijuana in 1996, it’s still rare to find a city that permits commercial cultivation.

    “What that does is it forces people to operate on an underground level, with zero regulation, zero tax structure, zero accountability,” said Sayegh, a Los Angeles-based attorney who’s spearheading three Adelanto projects. “You might as well accept it, regulate, tax it, keep pesticides out of it and allow it to thrive.”

    Desert Hot Springs became the first Southern California city to allow large-scale grows in 2014. Those facilities are just starting to come online in the Coachella Valley city, with five approved and seven pending.

    When investors started talking to Adelanto about cultivation, nearly all of the City Council was against it. The exception was John “Bug” Woodard Jr.

    “I had nothing to lose,” said Woodard, a real estate agent with flowing gray hair who hosts the Woodystock Blues Festival on his desert ranch. “The city could not get in any worse shape than it was. It was broke.”

    After a year of heated meetings – featuring disapproving school district and public safety leaders – Woodard couldn’t persuade the City Council to approve dispensaries. But on Nov. 23, the council voted 4-1 to allow cultivation.

    The city’s ordinance limits grows to enclosed spaces with nondescript signs. They can’t be within 2,500 feet of schools, parks or churches. Applicants have to go through background checks and promise to install security cameras and alarms.

    The ordinance also says cultivation permits are only good for 12 months. That drew concern from some applicants, nervous about investing so much money with only a yearlong guarantee.

    “If you’re doing everything appropriately, then there should be no reason that you don’t have your license renewed,” said Longwith, the attorney representing a dozen investors. “They’re putting their neck on the line, so I think they deserve some reassurances.”

    Adelanto originally talked about granting just six permits. At the last minute, the council decided to let zoning dictate the limit, allowing as many cultivation facilities as can fit in three industrial parks that total more than 21 million square feet.

    One park – the acreage Kojima bought – is vacant. The other two are a mix of empty parcels and large warehouses, with some 44 manufacturing businesses that are about to get a flood of unusual neighbors.

    CAST OF CHARACTERS

    A wide range of characters has joined Adelanto’s land rush.

    The owners of Fat Jack’s Bar and Grill in neighboring Apple Valley have snatched up property to build a cultivation facility.

    Medical marijuana dispensaries Organix out of Santa Ana and East L.A. Caregivers have thrown their hats into the ring. So has Anaheim Hills real estate developer Manooch Khanbeigi.

    Kojima, a soft-spoken man who’s done speculative development in Southern California for 40 years, is expected to build multiple warehouses to lease to growers. He paid so little for the property because the city believed it had to price at its assessed value, following a conflict with the state over redevelopment funds.

    Joseph Brady, president of the commercial real estate firm the Bradco Companies, said that before Adelanto voted to allow cultivation he’d get one call a week with people interested in buying land or buildings. Since the September vote, he’s been averaging five calls a day.

    “I’ve had a broker’s license since March 1980,” Brady said. “I have never in my life seen anything like this happen.”

    One plot was valued at $1.5 million before the zoning changed to allow cultivation, he said; now it’s in escrow for $4 million.

    Brown, who’s with Lee & Associates, said land that was going for 50 to 90 cents per square foot is now going for $12 to $14.

    With banks still unwilling to serve medical marijuana businesses due to federal laws against the drug, most land buyers are paying cash, Brown said.

    Federal laws killed one deal Brady was working, where a building owner planned to lease space to two cultivators. When the landlord heard the government could seize land used to facilitate a federal crime, he quickly backed out.

    But Sayegh told a group of investors, cultivators, doctors, architects and record executives who flew across the country Tuesday for a tour of three Adelanto facilities that they won’t have to fear raids since they’ll be complying with city and state laws.

    PUSHING ASIDE DRONES

    Sayegh’s Adelanto Research Technologies – in a massive warehouse that was home to Cabo Yachts until the company left town in 2010 – will focus on cultivating exclusive strains of cannabis for distribution throughout the state.

    Ecologies Laboratories says it will focus on medical research, with biochemist Kang Hsu hoping to study how cannabis can be used to calm pediatric epilepsy, shrink brain tumors and ward off PTSD in veterans.

    Those lofty plans won over the owner of a building that’s long been leased for storage to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, which makes the Predator drone. Rather than renew the defense company’s lease, the landlord opted to give the space to Ecologies Laboratories.

    General Atomics also uses several other buildings in town, employing some 250 people, and the city hopes to find it another property, de Manincor said. Still, the company has threatened to pull out of Adelanto altogether.

    “We are currently weighing our options as a result of the city’s inability to recognize the negative impact of this ordinance on Adelanto’s second-largest employer,” General Atomics spokeswoman Kimberly Kasitz said in an email.

    Adelanto has already raked in $203,000 in permit application fees. And the city should see a bump in its meager property tax revenue as land values rise.

    The real money, though, will come in November if voters approve a tax on cultivation facilities.

    The city took a risk in permitting cultivation without first having a tax structure in place. And cultivators won’t know what tax rate they’ll face until many have already invested heavily in development, since details of the tax are still being drafted.

    “It looks like everyone who touches marijuana is in this green rush and making millions of dollars. But in reality, high taxes can just crush these businesses,” Longwith said.

    MILLIONS AT STAKE

    Under the tax structure imposed in Desert Hot Springs, cultivation is taxed at $25 for the first 3,000 square feet and $10 for each square foot after that. If it adopted that approach, Adelanto might make more than $6 million each year from the first 27 cultivators. (By way of context, the city’s entire general fund budget this fiscal year is $13 million.)

    Longwith calls that tax structure “onerous.” But de Manincor recommends Adelanto take an even tougher stance, not slashing the tax after 3,000 square feet. He feels doing that creates an unfair advantage for large cultivators.

    If all Adelanto growers paid $25 per square feet, the city would rake in $12 million a year from the 27 permitted cultivators.

    The city may feel emboldened now, with so few cities permitting cultivation. But competition is expected to increase soon. Brown points to two unnamed cities in Riverside County and many others throughout the state that are considering similar regulations. And those numbers are expected to jump if Californians vote this fall to legalize recreational use.

    More pot-friendly cities might have to compete for cultivators. But for now, all eyes are on Adelanto.

    “This will bring millions and millions and millions of dollars flowing into our city,” Woodard said. “Adelanto is going to blow everyone’s mind. We’re going to blow the entire world’s mind.”

  2. Palos Verdes Penninsula Reply

    February 13, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    The Rolling Hills Estates city council on Tuesday also approved a similar ban. However, the Rolling Hills Estates ordinance allows for deliveries to be made “on a very limited basis” to elder-care facilities and hospice patients, said David Wahba, RHE’s planning director.

  3. Actress Roseanne Barr Reply

    February 11, 2016 at 11:40 am

    From comedy to cannabis: Roseanne Barr invests in Santa Ana pot shop

    Actress Roseanne Barr, seen in April 2014, is entering the budding medical marijuana industry – in Santa Ana.

    SANTA ANA – First, comedian Roseanne Barr blazed trails with her sitcom; more recently she joined the growing reality TV world as she farmed macadamia nuts in Hawaii.

    Now the onetime presidential hopeful whose slogan was ‘Yes, we Cannabis!’ is entering the budding medical marijuana industry – in Santa Ana.

    Barr will be an investor and have a licensing agreement with a dispensary that’s one of 20 that won a city lottery last year allowing it to apply to operate in Santa Ana, the actress’ spokesman and the dispensary’s partners said this week.

    The dispensary will be called Roseanne’s Joint and will sell marijuana products bearing its name, said partner Aaron Herzberg, 46. It will feature Barr’s unique pot strains and products such as pot-laced, chocolate-covered macadamia nuts grown on her farm, he said.

    The actress also will make occasional appearances there, he said.

    “I’m proud to be a cultural pioneer at the forefront of another wave of progress! And we’re proud of the city of Santa Ana as we continue to move into the era of recognizing cannabis as the natural, therapeutic, herbal substance medical science has proven it to be,” Barr said in a statement. “Roseanne’s Joint will be a responsible, contributing member of, and addition to, the community.”

    Barr wasn’t available for an interview this week, her spokesman James Moore said.

    Barr joins a growing number of celebrities trying their hand at medical marijuana ventures, in Santa Ana and beyond. Cypress Hill rapper B-Real was the first celebrity to jump into the local pot scene when his dispensary was among those to win Santa Ana’s dispensary license lottery.

    Last week, actor Woody Harrelson applied for a marijuana dispensary license in Hawaii. Other celebrities already associated with marijuana reportedly are getting into the industry in one form or another – including actor Tommy Chong, rapper Snoop Dogg and the family of singer Bob Marley.

    It was a “natural, easy kind of conversation” bringing Barr on board, Herzberg said, because he was her attorney half a dozen years ago and they became friends. After Herzberg got involved in the weed industry a few years ago, Barr – who in 2012 pursued the presidential nominations of the Green Party and Peace and Freedom Party and was vocal about legalizing marijuana – was “excited” and decided to get involved, he said.

    Last year, Barr, 63, revealed she is consuming medical marijuana to fight glaucoma and macular degeneration that are causing her to gradually lose her eyesight.

    “We think it will bring credibility and a good name and frankly, good values,” Herzberg said. “But we also hope that it will create within the community a sense that marijuana is here to stay in California, that it’s getting legitimized and that serious names are coming to the table.”

    The oldest child in a working-class, Jewish Salt Lake City family, Barr began her career as a stand-up comedian before rising to fame for her role in the sitcom “Roseanne,” a hit from 1988 to 1997 that earned her an Emmy and a Golden Globe for best actress.

    She has “been involved in the design process personally,” Herzberg said, and has asked that the dispensary offer customers “a very high-end, premium experience with very rustic wood floors and a very open environment.”

    An incomplete application for a regulatory safety permit, which gives approval to open, is on file with the Santa Ana Police Department for the Roseanne’s Joint address, 1327 E. St. Gertrude Place, said police Commander Chris Revere. A similar application has been filed for B-Real’s dispensary, Dr. Greenthumb, which is a reference to one of his songs.

    Of the 20 dispensaries selected in the lottery, 10 have been issued regulatory safety permits, six have applied for a permit and are in the background process or have submitted incomplete applications, and four have not submitted any application, according to Revere.

    Herzberg said construction for Roseanne’s Joint could be completed by late April, a necessary element to receive the regulatory safety permit, and the dispensary could open shortly afterward. Prices will have to be competitive, he said, because licensed dispensaries pay taxes to the city, unlike rogue stores.

    Dispensary partners see Roseanne’s Joint as only the start.

    Barr’s licensed products could someday be distributed at other stores and she could be involved in other pot shop ventures, Herzberg said.

    There’s also greater potential within Roseanne’s Joint, said Chris Francey, 32, the other partner in the dispensary.

    The building is 5,000 square feet, about three times the average dispensary size, said Francey, who’s already opened his first medicial marijuana shop in the city, OC3 at 3122 S. Halladay St. He and Herzberg said they hope the city will consider allowing cultivation or a coffee shop operation at licensed dispensaries.

    Herzberg said Barr is a serious supporter of the benefits of marijuana.

    “She’s very spiritual, she’s very holistic, she’s extremely into natural remedies, and I can tell you that she believes very strongly that marijuana is medicine,” Herzberg said. “And she wants us to educate patients in a way that I don’t think many other dispensaries are doing and make it a safe and comfortable environment.”

  4. Rose Garden Reply

    February 5, 2016 at 9:26 am

    cerritospublicworks.blogspot.com/

    Complete Landscape Care is out of Whitter and lost the city maintenance contract decades ago, for breach of contract. They were terminated from Cerritos, but under another name. Why is the city allowing them to come back to the table and awarding them the low bid? Is Complete Care going to use paroles from Whittier Jails for rehabbing the employees to work gardening in the city?

    Hmmm, city is being divided in to 3-4 maintenance contracts, this should be interesting to watch. City Landscape is the worst on record.

    Why has the Cerritos immigrants voting for councils, allow the city landscape to fall in to ruins? 2015 sales at the Auto Mall has sent all time record sales of more then 60,000 sold cars. Where is the sales tax money going to, poss the pink elephant CCPA?

    Property Preservation Commissioners should cite not only poor landscape maintenance for property owners, but should cite and complain about the poor quality of Landscape maintenance in the city held landscape maintenance meridians.

  5. Centurions Reply

    February 5, 2016 at 8:55 am

    The city gave us no data of how many people in Cerritos are licensed for medical marijuana, how come? City never gave us any data for the licensed medical marijuana clients, who have and do not have a DMV license.

    Said ordinance is just creating another tier level in the city, tearing the city of part, because many of the older people do not have caretakers, nor are licensed with the Department of Motor Vehicles, are housebound and not able to acquire medical marijuana via a carrier service. City has many low income residents who do not have care taker nor Senior Life Medical /Long Term Care Insurance.

    This ordinance is wrapped in REPUBLICAN tissue paper and trying to force poor and dying out of the city.

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