By CJ Dablo
Although they’ve already survived a change in city ordinances that now prohibits them from operating near parks, medical marijuana dispensaries are still going through a rigorous process before the City of Long Beach issues any permits, a city official confirmed. The future of marijuana dispensaries is still in question for those dispensaries that did survive last year’s lottery process in which the City randomly chose the collective/cultivation sites that would be allowed to move forward in their efforts to become recognized businesses operating within city limits. In addition, the City is still in the process of dealing with the numerous dispensaries that are prohibited.
“We are working aggressively on enforcement issues with the city attorney’s office in the efforts to shut [them] down,” said Business Relations Bureau Manager Erik Sund, of the illegal dispensaries. The Business Relations Bureau is part of the City’s Department of Financial Management.
Approximately 26 sites were named on the City website’s list of lottery winners, however, according to Sund, the individual marijuana dispensaries still need to meet specific requirements and be reviewed in a public hearing before city permits are issued. No estimate was given for how long this process will actually take.
But residents like Sam Portillo, a Wrigley resident who lives near one of the prohibited dispensaries, don’t like the idea of medical marijuana dispensaries. He lamented how his neighborhood has been affected.
“I feel that Wrigley is a dumping ground for liquor stores, motels, 99-cent [stores] and now dispensaries, ” said Portillo in a March telephone interview.
Portillo, who serves on the Wrigley Association board and the Neighborhood Action Group, said he didn’t believe that the people who patronized the prohibited dispensary near his home were really patients who needed marijuana for medical use. Many of them were males in their 20s and 30s, he said, and they did not look sick. Portillo suspected that this particular dispensary on Pacific Avenue was not serving patients with legitimate medical needs.
And for Portillo, it didn’t matter whether other marijuana dispensaries would still undergo a strict vetting process before they received city permits.
“If they are going to legalize recreational marijuana, just do it. Stop calling it medicine,” said Portillo in a follow-up telephone interview last Wednesday.
While Signal Hill has so far successfully kept marijuana dispensaries from operating within its city limits, Long Beach’s ordinance that was revised in February has a host of requirements for the dispensaries that choose to stay in business.
In addition to ordinance requirements that necessitate locations be at least 1,500 feet away from high schools and 1,000 feet away from schools serving students in kindergarten through junior high, medical marijuana dispensaries are prohibited from operating near parks. According to the new ordinance, businesses will have to install security cameras at public right-of-ways and parking lots that are designated for the dispensary. The police department will have access to live and recorded surveillance captured through the cameras through an Internet connection. In addition, the City will not allow anyone convicted of a felony within the last ten years to be responsible for the management of the dispensary.
If the medical marijuana dispensaries still want that permit, it will be a long road ahead.