VISTA — Nearly three dozen applicants submitted their applications in hopes of becoming a permitted medicinal marijuana business on Jan. 22.
According to Vista City Attorney Darold Pieper, the city received 31 applicants with 29 submitting full applications for 11 city permits. Due to the rush and number of applicants attempting to jockey for the top 11 spots, the city held a lottery to make a fair system, Peiper said.
The City Council approved its medical cannabis ordinance along with passing an extended moratorium on all medical marijuana-related business for the next 10 months.
Applicants drew plastic balls and received their assigned position. However, being in the top 11 doesn’t necessarily mean those applicants will pass the application process.
If the paperwork doesn’t line up, they will be disqualified and the next applicant will be under review.
“We had no one object to the fee,” Pieper said. “The fee was based on an estimate of the hours that are required by the various departments in the city for processing the applications.”
The final day to submit an application is Jan. 29, according to the city’s timeline. The city will then publish the priority list the week of Feb. 21 to Feb. 28, which marks the end of the 30-day processing period and Vista will issue notices of completed registration.
Should a potential business receive the green light from the city, it must then receive its state license before opening.
Those applying for a medical cannabis dispensary business license paid $100,000 to prove to the city they have funds available for any building improvements or other costs and fees associated with the application process, according to city code. The $100,000 was a condition of the ordinance. The Measure Z application filing fee, meanwhile, is $9,368, according to city records.
The money from the 29 applicants equals $3,171,672 in fees delivered to the city.
The city also only allows one cannabis business per 10,000 residents, which is based on the most recent federal census. Businesses are not allowed within 600 feet of any school, operating out of a residence and must be 500 feet away from the next closest dispensary.
Also, businesses are only allowed in commercial, research light industrial, industrial park, mixed-use or light manufacturing zones.
Those who violate the city code will be fined $10,000 for “each and every offense,” and each day a violation continues is considered a new and separate offense, according to the city ordinance. For example, if a business is cited for a violation, and the violation occurs for three days, the cost would run $30,000.
As for the moratorium, Deputy Attorney John Franklin lobbied for an exemption regarding marijuana testing facilities, which are required by state law. He said he spoke with an individual who has worked in such labs and said they are needed to safeguard customers. Additionally, it opens new business and tax revenue avenues for the city.
However, city staff and the rest of the council said due to the overwhelming nature of Measure Z and the new policies, it would be best to give staff at least six months to process the applications and work out any issues with the new law.
“What about testing?” Franklin asked. “Those types of uses are not related to sales.”
Mayor Julie Ritter agreed, in part, saying testing and research are the same kind of business, but said waiting six months will allow the city to work through the issue.