Cathedral City bans future pot dispensaries south of I-10

Aspiring Cathedral City pot dispensary owners will soon have to look for real estate north of Interstate 10 if they want to see their business dreams come to fruition.

The City Council voted 3-2 on Wednesday to ban the development of future cannabis dispensaries south of the interstate, pushing the industry into a largely undeveloped swath of land annexed by the city a few years ago.

Council members Greg Pettis and Shelley Kaplan voted no.

The ordinance also allows existing dispensaries south of the I-10 to move to a new location. They would not have to go through the licensing process again–unless the facility changes ownership–but would have to get a new conditional use permit for the new location.

The measure was brought forward at the recommendation of the city’s Medical Cannabis Task Force, a group of city staff, members of the cannabis industry and city residents who study pot ventures in the city and make recommendations to the council about how the burgeoning industry should be regulated.

In response to concerns from residents about the pace at which the industry was expanding in the city, the council implemented a temporary moratorium on all new pot dispensary applications last fall. The ban was later extended and is set to expire in July.

Pettis, who voted against the original moratorium and the extension, said he didn’t support the newly-proposed ban and felt they should wait until the extension expired to pursue yet another moratorium. He also reiterated his previous statement that the market, not the council, should decide when the city reached its saturation point with dispensaries.

“We have never done a temporary moratorium in this city that hasn’t turned into a full moratorium,” he said. “Now you can’t even wait for the moratorium to expire.”

Kaplan said he had not yet seen any studies on how the expansion of dispensaries had affected the city and wanted to extend the moratorium until that information was presented to the council.

In response to an inquiry from Kaplan, Community Development Director Pat Milos said 10 dispensaries were currently open with another likely opening soon. Six more were licensed and had conditional use permits approved, two were licensed but didn’t yet have conditional use permits and two more applications had been submitted but were not yet licensed.

Council will take a second vote on the measure in two weeks. It would then go into effect 30 days later and would essentially replace the temporary moratorium after it expires.

The measure has no effect on dispensaries that have already opened or submitted their applications before the original moratorium was implemented. It also has no effect on other cannabis-related businesses, such as cultivation and manufacturing facilities.

Despite the proliferation of dispensaries having been a controversial and much talked about issue in the past, no members of the public spoke on the issue Wednesday. The first four hours of the council meeting were devoted to a discussion of a sanctuary city resolution, which also passed 3-2, and by the time the pot measure came up, there were no members of the public left at the meeting.

Special Thanks to Corinne Kennedy covers the west valley for The Desert Sun. She can be reached at Corinne.Kennedy@DesertSun.com, on Twitter @CorinneSKennedy or at 760-778-4625.

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