Imperial Beach considers opening two marijuana dispensaries instead of one

In this file photo, Alaska Cannabis Club CEO Charlo Greene prepares to roll a joint at the medical marijuana dispensary in Anchorage, Alaska.
In this file photo, Alaska Cannabis Club CEO Charlo Greene prepares to roll a joint at the medical marijuana dispensary in Anchorage, Alaska.
(Mark Thiessen / AP)

Imperial Beach is considering doubling the number of cannabis dispensaries allowed -– from one to two -– to avoid a ballot measure that would permit an unlimited number of dispensaries, consumption lounges, testing sites, and cultivation facilities in the small coastal town.

Last year, the same ballot initiative prompted elected officials in Imperial Beach to pass their own marijuana ordinance. Elected officials figured they’d rather have their own conservative ordinance that permits one dispensary to open within 900 feet of a school, park, church, or daycare center instead of an initiative by the Association of Cannabis Professionals that would have permitted many more cannabis businesses.

However, that initiative never made it on the November 2018 ballot. Imperial Beach rejected the initiative because of technical issues with the language. The Association of Cannabis Professionals appealed, but a San Diego Superior Court judge backed Imperial Beach’s decision.

ACP appealed again, this time to the state’s Court of Appeal and won in February, according to a staff report from Imperial Beach.

But now that the election is over, ACP would have to wait until November 2020 to place its ballot initiative before the voters.

So, the Association of Cannabis Professionals asked Imperial Beach to make some changes to their existing ordinance instead of waiting until 2020 to pursue the ballot initiative that, if approved by voters, would introduce a completely new regulatory framework to Imperial Beach.

The proposed changes include approving two dispensaries instead of one and shortening the buffer zone between cannabis dispensaries and sensitive locations like schools, churches and daycare centers from 900 feet to 600 feet, according to Imperial Beach’s staff report.

Imperial Beach will hold a public hearing and decide what to do at its June 19 City Council meeting.

The city can either keep the rules they have now and risk having voters ACP’s ballot initiative approved in November 2020, or agree to the compromise, said City Manager Andy Hall.

Hall encouraged Imperial Beach residents to attend the June 19 meeting so that the City Council can consider public input when making their decision.

“We want to hear from the residents, consider it, and the council can choose to do it or not do it,” he said.

In May, the city received seven applications from operators hoping to open a cannabis dispensary in Imperial Beach. Staff are currently screening the applications, a lengthy process that is anticipated to last several months.

ACP did not respond to an interview request.