The Orange County Register reports…
Costa Mesa will allow the city’s first cannabis stores in commercially zoned areas across the city, with limits on how close the stores can be to places for children such as schools and playgrounds, and the city will add a 7% tax on the products sold there.
The distance requirement, the tax and other details are spelled out in new rules the City Council approved April 20; the rules will get a procedural second reading in May and go into effect 30 days later.
Until now, Santa Ana has been the only Orange County city to permit storefront sales of cannabis, though Costa Mesa and a few others let manufacturing, distribution and other aspects of the business in, and Stanton has approved four companies to open retail stores. In November, Costa Mesa voters approved a measure that paved the way for regulations and a tax on retail sales and delivery.
Mayor John Stephens said the city’s already had a number of inquiries from would-be entrepreneurs; the permit process is expected to open by summer.
In addition to setting the 7% city tax (cannabis purchases also carry a state excise tax of 15%, plus additional state and local sales taxes), the council voted to require at least a 1,000-foot buffer between cannabis shops and “sensitive uses” including schools, playgrounds, daycare centers and homeless shelters, and a 600-foot separation from youth centers, such as a Boys & Girls Club, which state law dictates.
Not everyone is satisfied with the new rules. Among issues raised at the council meeting were the impact of taxes on medical cannabis users, concerns the distance between stores was too big or not big enough, and that the city hasn’t done enough about illegal cannabis shops. (Stephens has said one of the goals of allowing and regulating the stores is to help drive out black market business.)
In a phone interview, resident Jim Peters said he voted for the measure to regulate cannabis sales because he supports taxing them, but he doesn’t think the ballot language made clear that they can be in commercial zones city-wide. Costa Mesa limits other types of cannabis businesses to industrial zones.
“To me as a parent with young kids, it’s kind of disturbing to know those stores can be all throughout the city now,” Peters said. Based on shops he’s seen in other cities, he said, “It’s not a friendly environment. There’s going to be higher crime.”
Costa Mesa will require stores to have a security plan and to only allow people 21 and older to enter. Stephens said the city is setting out a variety of rules for how the businesses can look, and they can’t advertise outside with sandwich boards or sign twirlers. On-site consumption of the product is prohibited.