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La Mesa opens for pot business

Shop applicants cough up the fees as illegal dispensaries close

Many blocks of University Avenue — the site of illegal dispensaries — will be eligible for legal pot-shop openings.
Many blocks of University Avenue — the site of illegal dispensaries — will be eligible for legal pot-shop openings.

Today (February 6), the City of La Mesa accepted applications — and a nonrefundable $1200 initial fee — from people seeking a conditional use permit to open a medical marijuana dispensary, cultivation business, or to manufacture marijuana. Those businesses are allowed because voters approved Measure U on November 8.

Application numbers were issued at a January 9 informational workshop attended by about 250 people, according to city manager Yvonne Garrett. She spoke about the measure and illegal dispensaries at the city’s January 31 and February 2 town-hall meetings. Garrett also responded in a February 3 email to Reader questions.

Yvonne Garrett

Mayor Mark Arapostathis said at both town halls that legal action resulted in the closure of 6 of the 18 illegal dispensaries. Garrett wrote that the city spent $58,933 in legal fees from July through December 2016 to close those businesses.

Open dispensaries received cease-and-desist letters and were notified that the city won’t accept applications from illegal dispensaries. Garrett wrote that dispensaries at four addresses recently closed due “to the letter or voluntarily (apparently in preparation for [a conditional use permit]).”

What prevents illegal shops from opening under another name? Garrett wrote, “They can, but we will continue to pursue closure through the court system, and for those shops wanting to become legal, the city will not accept” an application “and/or will stop processing their application if we find they are operating illegally during the [conditional use permit] process.”

If Herbal Trust remains open, owners won't be eligible to apply for a legal pot-shop permit.

La Mesa holds two town halls annually, and each 2017 meeting drew about 100 people. Residents at both forums spoke about an illegal dispensary on the 6900 block of University Avenue. The business, Herbal Trust, is open 24 hours, seven days a week, according to weedmaps.

A veterinary hospital is located immediately to the left, and owner Donna Valerie spoke January 31 about issues including the proximity of a preschool. R J’s Preschool is located at the Kroc Center (6845 University Avenue). While it’s in San Diego, La Mesa’s officials said Measure U distance requirements apply.

There is a 1000-foot “path of travel” from dispensaries to sensitive uses such as day-care centers, minor-oriented facilities, and other legal dispensaries. There is also a 600-foot radius separation from schools.

A man said, “I don’t question the benefits of marijuana, but I don’t like the smell.” He asked about boundaries if someone lights up. City attorney Glenn Sabine spoke about smoking laws. Attorney Ken Sobel spoke about the “value of medical cannibals.” He also talked at the February 2 forum, where six people objected to Herbal Trust.

Brent spoke about garbage and “large crowds all hours of the night. My wife can no longer walk to the gym safely.” Councilwoman Kristine Alessio said legal dispensaries will close at 9 p.m., and permits are conditional and could be “yanked” if there are problems.

Patrick said, “Lights blast into our home 24 hours a day. I heard La Mesa [is] the next North Park, the next Hillcrest. Dispensaries put a damper on the city,” which could become known as “the weed district.”

Arapostathis said, “I’d like to be Elliot Ness" — the famed Prohibition-era government agent who had a hand in bringing down Al Capone — and close it down. Garrett said the business was “referred to the city attorney this week.”

Sobel said La Mesa could become “a magnet of the healthcare scene.”

According to the Measure U web page, the amount of businesses that will be allowed is unknown. Dispensaries are allowed only in these zones: general commercial, light industrial and commercial services, industrial services, and manufacturing.

Two types of cultivation businesses are allowed: small specialty indoor cultivation (with a 5000-square-foot plant canopy limitation) and nursery cultivation. Both types of businesses and manufacturing are allowed in the industrial service and manufacturing zone.

Garrett wrote, “We will accept but not process applications on February 6. The application process will occur in phases and is likely to take some time. We do not know if there will be an additional application period later.”

Once the city issues a clearance letter, the applicant submits a copy of the letter and pays $10,178, the remaining balance of the nonrefundable application fee. Other charges include $106 per employee for an initial police background check and $69 for fingerprinting by the police department or a third party. There are also annual charges of $1859 for conditional use permit inspections, $33 per employee for police background checks, and between $18,800 and $24,480 for medical marijuana maintenance reports. The applicant also pays for an environmental study.

Applications will be scheduled for a planning commission hearing. If commissioners deny a prospective pot shop, the applicant can appeal to the city council.

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Many blocks of University Avenue — the site of illegal dispensaries — will be eligible for legal pot-shop openings.
Many blocks of University Avenue — the site of illegal dispensaries — will be eligible for legal pot-shop openings.

Today (February 6), the City of La Mesa accepted applications — and a nonrefundable $1200 initial fee — from people seeking a conditional use permit to open a medical marijuana dispensary, cultivation business, or to manufacture marijuana. Those businesses are allowed because voters approved Measure U on November 8.

Application numbers were issued at a January 9 informational workshop attended by about 250 people, according to city manager Yvonne Garrett. She spoke about the measure and illegal dispensaries at the city’s January 31 and February 2 town-hall meetings. Garrett also responded in a February 3 email to Reader questions.

Yvonne Garrett

Mayor Mark Arapostathis said at both town halls that legal action resulted in the closure of 6 of the 18 illegal dispensaries. Garrett wrote that the city spent $58,933 in legal fees from July through December 2016 to close those businesses.

Open dispensaries received cease-and-desist letters and were notified that the city won’t accept applications from illegal dispensaries. Garrett wrote that dispensaries at four addresses recently closed due “to the letter or voluntarily (apparently in preparation for [a conditional use permit]).”

What prevents illegal shops from opening under another name? Garrett wrote, “They can, but we will continue to pursue closure through the court system, and for those shops wanting to become legal, the city will not accept” an application “and/or will stop processing their application if we find they are operating illegally during the [conditional use permit] process.”

If Herbal Trust remains open, owners won't be eligible to apply for a legal pot-shop permit.

La Mesa holds two town halls annually, and each 2017 meeting drew about 100 people. Residents at both forums spoke about an illegal dispensary on the 6900 block of University Avenue. The business, Herbal Trust, is open 24 hours, seven days a week, according to weedmaps.

A veterinary hospital is located immediately to the left, and owner Donna Valerie spoke January 31 about issues including the proximity of a preschool. R J’s Preschool is located at the Kroc Center (6845 University Avenue). While it’s in San Diego, La Mesa’s officials said Measure U distance requirements apply.

There is a 1000-foot “path of travel” from dispensaries to sensitive uses such as day-care centers, minor-oriented facilities, and other legal dispensaries. There is also a 600-foot radius separation from schools.

A man said, “I don’t question the benefits of marijuana, but I don’t like the smell.” He asked about boundaries if someone lights up. City attorney Glenn Sabine spoke about smoking laws. Attorney Ken Sobel spoke about the “value of medical cannibals.” He also talked at the February 2 forum, where six people objected to Herbal Trust.

Brent spoke about garbage and “large crowds all hours of the night. My wife can no longer walk to the gym safely.” Councilwoman Kristine Alessio said legal dispensaries will close at 9 p.m., and permits are conditional and could be “yanked” if there are problems.

Patrick said, “Lights blast into our home 24 hours a day. I heard La Mesa [is] the next North Park, the next Hillcrest. Dispensaries put a damper on the city,” which could become known as “the weed district.”

Arapostathis said, “I’d like to be Elliot Ness" — the famed Prohibition-era government agent who had a hand in bringing down Al Capone — and close it down. Garrett said the business was “referred to the city attorney this week.”

Sobel said La Mesa could become “a magnet of the healthcare scene.”

According to the Measure U web page, the amount of businesses that will be allowed is unknown. Dispensaries are allowed only in these zones: general commercial, light industrial and commercial services, industrial services, and manufacturing.

Two types of cultivation businesses are allowed: small specialty indoor cultivation (with a 5000-square-foot plant canopy limitation) and nursery cultivation. Both types of businesses and manufacturing are allowed in the industrial service and manufacturing zone.

Garrett wrote, “We will accept but not process applications on February 6. The application process will occur in phases and is likely to take some time. We do not know if there will be an additional application period later.”

Once the city issues a clearance letter, the applicant submits a copy of the letter and pays $10,178, the remaining balance of the nonrefundable application fee. Other charges include $106 per employee for an initial police background check and $69 for fingerprinting by the police department or a third party. There are also annual charges of $1859 for conditional use permit inspections, $33 per employee for police background checks, and between $18,800 and $24,480 for medical marijuana maintenance reports. The applicant also pays for an environmental study.

Applications will be scheduled for a planning commission hearing. If commissioners deny a prospective pot shop, the applicant can appeal to the city council.

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This must be a historic document about medical marijuana. Recreational marijuana is legal now and worthy of consideration.

Feb. 6, 2017

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