While cities across OC have wrestled with the idea of allowing cannabis shops to open, Dana Point is considering allowing the shops — stemming from a community opinion poll.
In a survey conducted by FM3 Research with 526 Dana Point voters, 52% of respondents said that they would support allowing medical cannabis dispensaries and recreational cannabis businesses in the city, while 42% said they opposed.
“[The survey] just put a big flag up to the industry that Dana Point is ready,” Mayor Joseph Muller said at the Feb. 1 meeting. “They’ll be here … We need to stay in front of these issues and not let the industry dictate what is going to happen here.”
A split City Council voted 3-2 Tuesday to direct staff to research potential locations and restrictions for cannabis businesses in preparation for further discussion.
Muller, along with Council Members Jamey Federico and Mike Frost, agreed that preparing and discussing potential cannabis regulations is easier than resident-driven ballot measures or state action that prevents council control of these businesses.
“I don’t think we’re doing our residents a disservice by not having it,” Federico said at the meeting. “What we’re doing is ignoring the future and in the meantime missing out on all the tax dollars that go with that.”
Federico also said that the cannabis industry’s arrival in Dana Point — and all OC cities — is inevitable, and it’s better to prepare for that change instead of falling behind.
Council Members Michael Villar and Richard Viczorek stood firmly against cannabis businesses.
“I’m not going to support spending staff time on doing something that I’m not going to support,” Viczorek said at the meeting. “I don’t see any reason why we would direct staff.”
Currently, cannabis businesses are not allowed in the city after a 2016 ordinance outlawed all commercial cannabis activities.
Further, a 2018 ordinance declared Dana Point a smoke-free city and prohibits all types of smoking products — including tobacco, e-cigarettes, vaporizers and marijuana — in public places.
Although cannabis businesses are prohibited in the city, delivery services are allowed for Dana Point residents to order cannabis from other cities.
“[Cannabis is] here in delivery already,” Federico said at the meeting. “What we’re losing are the tax dollars … It’s coming here and the sales tax dollars are going to Santa Ana.”
However, the survey results showed that only one in three city voters correctly identified that medical cannabis dispensaries and recreational cannabis businesses are not allowed in Dana Point.
Survey responses also showed that voters strongly support regulations on cannabis businesses, including requiring criminal background checks for employees, prohibiting businesses within 1,000 feet of schools and child care facilities, and increased security measures near the shops.
In 2016, the state of California passed Prop 64 that legalized commercial cannabis.
Statewide, 56% of voters supported the legislation, compared to 52% in Orange County and 54% in Dana Point.
Most recently, Costa Mesa has worked toward finalizing retail cannabis regulations after 65% of Costa Mesa voters approved retail cannabis shops and delivery services in a previous ballot measure.
A few residents came to the Feb. 1 meeting to speak against the issue.
“Where is the proof of the increased revenue and the increased quality of life in the community for having these businesses?” resident Katie Armstrong said at the meeting. “I don’t see it anywhere. I moved here three years ago from the LA area … I don’t think this fits in the wholesomeness little town that this is.”
Angelina Hicks is a Voice of OC News Intern. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @angelinahicks13.
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