Pasadena voters approved two ballot measures on Tuesday allowing the sale and taxation of recreational marijuana in the city.
With 100 percent of the precincts reporting, 10,134 voters —59.9 percent — cast ballots in favor of Measure CC which repeals the city’s ban on marijuana dispensaries and allows up to six dispensaries in the city.
Measure DD received 12,529 votes — 75.49 percent. The measure establishes the tax base on cannabis sold within city limits.
Voters overwhelmingly approved Measures AA and BB, which change the calendar for City Council and school board elections, respectively. As a result, elected officials will get 19 more months in office before the next election in 2020.
AA passed with 82.29 percent of the vote, changing the City Council election calendar to match statewide elections due to a new law designed to improve voter turnout. Measure BB received 84.28 percent of the vote. Measure BB removes runoff elections from the local school board and grants victory to the top voter even if the candidate does not receive 50 percent of the vote.
In other election news, incumbent Pasadena City College Area 1 Trustee Ross Selvidge, who left the race and then came back just days before the election, was defeated by Sandra Chen Lau.
Chen Lau garnered 5,290 votes. Selvidge came in with just over 3,669 votes, or 41 percent of the ballots.
PCC Area 3 incumbent Trustee Berlinda Brown, with 3,351 votes, overwhelmingly defeated Roger Eric Martinez, who received 782 votes.
California’s “Jungle Primary” forces the top two vote getters into the General Election in November. The rules ignore party lines and have forced members of the same party to face each other. That happened in races for the US Senate, the state Assembly and the race for the 27th Congressional District seat between incumbent Congresswoman Judy Chu and South Pasadena’s Bryan Witt, who are both Democrats. Although Chu won by a 51,805 to 10,319 margin, the two will face off again in General Election on Nov.6.
Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff also came out ahead in the race for the 28th Congressional District seat. Schiff defeated Johnny Nalbandian and Sal Genovese, a Democrat, with Nalbandian, a Republican, coming in second and earning a chance to run again.
Incumbent Sheriff Jim McDonnell also came in first among three candidates in that non-partisan contest, with 374,075 votes, or 47.5 percent of the ballots cast. In November, he will face Alex Villanueva, who captured 263,520 of the votes, or 33.4 percent.
In the governor’s race, Democrat Gavin Newsom and Republican John Cox finished as the top two vote getters. Newsom received 1,341.203 votes to Cox’s 1,056,038.
Democratic US Sen. Dianne Feinstein won 1,694,819 votes, or 43.8 percent, and moved to the November election against Kevin DeLeon, also a Democratic, who captured 435,639 votes or 11.3 percent.
State Assemblyman Chris Holden, a former Pasadena City Councilman, captured 35,235 votes, 59.5 percent and will also face a fellow Democrat in Alan Reynolds in November. Reynolds received 16,829 votes, or 28.4 percent.
In the local election, Measure CC’s victory means no more than one dispensary can be placed in any of the city’s seven council districts. The dispensaries must be at least 600 feet away from residential neighborhoods, schools, churches and parks. Plus, dispensaries and cultivators cannot operate within 1,000 feet of each other.
Critics claim that those restrictions could result in just two dispensaries citywide.
Retail businesses would be taxed at 6 percent, and all other marijuana-related businesses would pay 4 percent, due to the passage of Measure DD.
Nuisance dispensaries, or those that have operated without a license, would be barred from applying for a permit according to the ordinance.
Cannabis business operators praised the victory and said they would be contacting city officials about setting up shop in Pasadena.
“It makes so much sense for the city,” said former Pasadena resident Spencer Vodnoy, who runs Critical Mind in Adelanto. “Delivery into Pasadena was already allowed, which meant they had legal cannabis in Pasadena they weren’t able to tax. It can only benefit the city to regulate and tax cannabis, while making sure the operators are in compliance. I’m ready to help fill that role and make Pasadena a model for other cities to follow, if they will have me.”
According to Assistant City Attorney Theresa Fuentes there will be a specific permitting process for dispensary owners.
“Planning staff is working on further developing the applications and administrative guidelines.
The City Council directed staff to complete necessary documents, guidelines and applications and implement by Jan. 1.
In some desert cities like Adelanto, city officials have embraced recreational marijuana as a cash cow. But that has not been the case in more urban areas, where many city officials still resist recreational marijuana.
The City Council placed Measure CC on the ballot in an effort to maintain control of zoning ordinances controlling marijuana. Proponents of recreational marijuana led a failed effort to place a measure on the November ballot, leading to concerns that the group might eventually succeed with an ordinance that could have allowed for dozens of dispensaries.
Last year the City Council unanimously passed changes to the zoning code locking out marijuana dispensaries. At the time, the council agreed that marijuana can be delivered into the city for medicinal purposes.
The new ordinance will bar retail sales and cultivation for commercial purposes citywide.
“We may be swimming against the tide here,” said Mayor Terry Tornek after the ordinance was passed. “We will revisit this at some point.”
That tide moved in favor of marijuana in 2016, when two-third of voters in Pasadena voted in favor of Proposition 64, which allows for the recreational use of marijuana and its sale for those purposes to people 21 and older. The new law, which creates two new taxes, one levied on cultivation, the other on retail sales, went into effect on Jan. 1.
The city has been fighting illegal dispensaries for nearly two years.
In 2017, the city passed an ordinance allowing city officials to shut the power off at illegal pot dispensaries. About 19 marijuana dispensaries are operating illegally in the city.
According to city officials, many of these businesses lied to the city and their landlords before starting their dispensary operations.
In one case in Pasadena, an illegal dispensary began operating in a space adjacent to a Pasadena liquor store on North Lake Avenue, less than a mile away from two elementary schools and one middle school. The owner of the liquor store, who has been cited by the city, owns both spaces.
The council also voted to adopt a resolution to bar current illegal marijuana dispensary operators from receiving permits to operate any business in Pasadena.
State officials are battling the same problem.
In March, the state’s pot regulation agency sent 900 warning letters to marijuana shops suspected of operating without state licenses.
Lori Ajax, who heads the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control, also sent a cease and desist notice to Weedmaps, a location service which lists the location of marijuana businesses telling it to stop advertising marijuana businesses operating without permits.
“Your website contains advertisements from persons offering cannabis and cannabis products for sale that are not licensed to conduct commercial cannabis activity; therefore, you are aiding and abetting in violations of state cannabis laws,” Ajax wrote.
As of Monday morning, the service listed 13 businesses operating illegally in Pasadena.