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Cannabis

Marijuana businesses could be legal in National City by the end of the year

An outside firm will help National City draft an ordinance that would legalize marijuana businesses, as well as potentially develop an application process for permits and establish fees.

The firm, HdL Companies, may also draft a ballot measure that would put in place a cannabis tax.

Under a contract approved by the City Council last week, the city will pay up to $29,000 for the services provided by the firm known as HdL, which helps cities regulate marijuana industries, among other services.

The City Council authorized the agreement without discussion.

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In a move that showed interest in the marijuana industry, the City Council decided to allocate funds for the contract with HdL in the budget for the fiscal year that begins in July.

According to HdL’s proposal, the city and the firm will host three public meetings — including at least one workshop — to gauge concerns about the potential impacts of marijuana businesses.

“Input gathered through these meetings will be used to help guide the development of a regulatory ordinance,” the proposal says.

The ordinance will include specific regulations for various marijuana businesses as directed by the city, such as dispensaries, delivery businesses, and cultivation, manufacturing, distribution and testing facilities, according to the proposal.

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City Manager Brad Raulston said the plan is to allow the City Council to review a “model” ordinance — drafted based in part on the community input and staff recommendations — in September or October, then return with a final ordinance by the end of the year.

Should the City Council support creating a cannabis market, HdL would help the city develop a permit process and fees.

According to HdL’s proposal, the application process would include a “merit-based” review and a scoring system. HdL would provide all necessary applications and required forms, such as indemnity agreements.

To determine proper fees so that the city recovers the costs associated with the permitting and regulation of the marijuana businesses, HdL would conduct a fiscal analysis that would include a study of the larger cannabis industry.

The first sign of interest in the marijuana industry came in April when Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, Deputy City Attorney Robby Contreras and police Lt. Greg Steward attended the California Cannabis Control Summit in Sacramento.

The trio shared some takeaways with the City Council during an April 16 meeting that gave way to a brief discussion. Steward said it was important to ensure the city has adequate staffing to regulate marijuana businesses to avoid strains on departments such as police, fire, planning and code enforcement.

The City Council generally raised some concerns and questions but did not voice opposition to the industry.

Some residents have pointed to the cannabis industry a potential source of revenue for the city, which faces a need to find ways to generate long-term revenue. Projections show the city must pull in an additional $10 million in revenue over the next five years to remain financially stable.


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