Bill Would Force Cities to Allow Pot Shops

When California voters legalized recreational marijuana via Proposition 64, local governments were given an explicit promise: they would maintain control over local licensing and decide if and how many dispensaries to permit in their cities. But that could all change with Assembly Bill 1356, introduced by Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) last month. It would force cities where a majority of voters approved Proposition 64 to allow one cannabis retailer for every four establishments with a liquor license or one for every 10,000 residents, whichever is less.

The bill would result in some 2,200 more licensed dispensaries throughout California. It would also ignite a war with local governments. Cities are already upset over new marijuana delivery rules that they say usurp local power.

"The bill is very troubling," League of California Cities Legislative Representative Charles Harvey recently told lawmakers. "It would completely erode the local control of cities and counties to regulate brick-and-mortar retail cannabis shops."

Burbank in Los Angeles County is one of the towns fighting the bill. 61% of Burbank voters approved Proposition 64, but the city prohibits cannabis shops within city limits. Under the bill, Burbank would be forced to allow up to 10 pot shops.

Proponents of the legislation are looking to stamp out the state’s illegal marijuana trade once and for all. The black market’s durability has resulted in underwhelming cannabis tax revenue which, as CalMarijuanaPolicy reported this week, is taking a bite out of the state budget. They also say it protects the will of voters who sent a clear message when they approved Proposition 64.

There are some provisions of Assembly Bill 1356 worth noting. It exempts cities where voters have explicitly rejected marijuana dispensaries, for instance. City councils could put the issue to their voters if they wish to be unbound by the law.

Read more about the bill here.