By Huw Pickering/Orange County Tribune
A zoning text amendment that would allow for taxing the sale and delivery of cannabis products was approved Tuesday night by the Huntington Beach City Council, but that may not be the last word on the matter.
Although the council voted in favor – four to two, with one absence – the ballot Measure O, which would permit the retail marketing of cannabis at certain locations, was still short of the required number of votes from the public.
According to the city clerk’s office, to be enacted, the amendment would have to receive 55 percent of the vote, plus one. At the latest update from the Orange County Registrar of Voters, Measure O had received 37,986 votes in favor (54.11 percent) with 32,210 (45.89 percent) opposed.
However, the Registar’s office still has 116,760 votes to process, countywide.
If Measure O eventually is enacted, a number of restrictions would be placed on where cannabis retail can occur. Such items could not be sold within 1000 feet of any school, within 600 feet of parks, day care centers, or youth centers, nor in the downtown and Sunset Beach areas. Retail of cannabis would be permitted in storefronts, while retailers in industrial zones would have the ability to deliver cannabis to customers.
Councilmember Natalie Moser affirmed her support to permit regulated sales of cannabis, beyond the incentive given by tax revenue.
“A higher-quality, non-illicit location,” Moser offered at Tuesday’s meeting, “would be important for those who need it medicinally.”
However, support from the council was not unanimous. Mayor Pro Tem Mike Posey voted against the zoning amendment, citing a philosophical and not a practical disagreement.
“I’m not convinced that the revenue we’ll generate will exceed the social costs,” Posey said. “And we don’t know what the social costs are yet.”
Posey’s comment echoed a number of public comments that the council had received via email over the past year, when a special subcommittee was formed to gauge the opinion of Surf City residents towards cannabis retail.
“Some say it will generate tax revenue,” wrote resident Russ Talbot on Oct. 4, “but at what price? The price will be the further diminishing of public safety in our family-friendly community.”
Just as many people, according to public comments received, are happy to allow cannabis retailers to set up shop if they maintain a distance from schools and parks, and see the benefit of added tax revenue that regulated sales will provide to the city.
“We do use cannabis in the city of HB,” wrote resident Heather Trudnich in an email on July 25, “and we’re losing tons of money by dragging behind the times.” A staff report issued earlier this year estimated an annual income of $600,000 to the city could be expected.
Having been passed by the council, the zoning amendment will come before the city’s planning commission on Dec, 13, where further deliberation will occur on who could receive permits to sell cannabis and how they could advertise their business, if Measure O is approved.
For updates on voting results, go to ocvote.com.
Categories: Huntington Beach