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Council Set to Boost Fines for "Pot Shop" Violators


Bob Kronovetrealty
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Santa Monica Convention and Visitors

By Jorge Casuso

February 22, 2019 -- Worried that the default $75 fine will do little to deter the illegal retail sale of medicinal marijuana, the City Council is expected to boost the penalty on Tuesday to $1,000.

The fee hike -- which City officials say is a routine adjustment -- comes two months after the Council chose two companies to run its first "pot shops" ("Santa Monica Chooses Medical Marijuana Retailers," December 20, 2018).

But while the Council approved the issuance of two permits, cannabis-related violations are not specifically enumerated on the City’s administrative fine schedule, officials said in its report.

That makes the fine the default amount of $75, staff said.

"Staff does not believe that $75 is substantial enough to be an adequate deterrent for cannabis-related violations, particularly in light of the lucrative nature of the cannabis retail industry," staff wrote in its report.

Santa money didn't open to doors to so-called pot shops until 2015 -- after dispensaries had proliferated in Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Malibu and other neighboring cities.

Officials, particularly police, worried that the largely cash businesses would attract crime. Some were concerned that the dispensaries would be frequented by customers who didn’t really need the drug for medicinal reasons.

In June 2015, the Council paved the way by allowing two retailers to open shop under its new zoning ordinance.

Under the medical cannabis law, retailers are restricted to the two-mile confines of Wilshire Boulevard, from Lincoln to the city limits, and along Santa Monica Boulevard between Lincoln and 20th Street or between 23rd Street and Centinela Avenue.

Outlets can be no larger than 2,500 square feet, cannot be within 600 feet of a child care and early education facility, or family day care center, park, school, library, social service center or other cannabis retailer.

The ordinance also established application and permitting processes for both retail outlets and “light manufacturing” of cannabis products in the city, including lotions or edibles. But it did not set fines for those who violated the local law.

Late last year, the Council chose Harvest of Santa Monica, LLC and CPC Compassion from a list of applicants seeking permits to open the two shops ("Santa Monica Chooses Medical Marijuana Retailers," December 20, 2018).

The permits are currently being appealed, City officials said.

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