Struggling LA County cities are hoping to cash in on California’s relaxed marijuana laws — and facing push back

In an email, Flores wrote that “anyone who knows anything about financial and building security for your family knows that real estate is a wise investment,” and added that he purchased the property more than 20 years ago.

The second business, Maywood L’Chaim, located on Maywood Avenue across the street from a residential neighborhood and a block from Loma Vista Elementary School, was approved for licenses to cultivate, manufacture and dispense marijuana.

Maywood’s marijuana businesses must receive a conditional use permit to begin operating, said City Atty. Mike Montgomery, who added that Flores will have to recuse himself when the matter goes to the Planning Commission.

Like other residents, Bibiano said she’s concerned about Corona Sky’s proximity to Maywood Elementary School, which is two blocks away.

“It’s an elementary school where parents walk by with their children,” she said. “We already battled drug problems in schools years ago…Now I’m even more worried because it’ll be within reach.”

Mary Mariscal, a former planning commissioner, knocked on doors with other community members on two occasions to gather hundreds of signatures for a referendum on the ordinance. The city told Mariscal that the first petitions were “moot” because it had revoked its previous ordinance. The second time, however, residents couldn’t gather enough petitions by the deadline.

“I’m not against cannabis. I’m not against marijuana. But it doesn’t fit here — our city is very small,” Mariscal said.

Medina said a review of business license applicants was conducted by an independent consulting group before city staff made their recommendations.

Councilman Eduardo De La Riva, who has voted against the marijuana ordinance, said he received no information about companies that submitted applications other than the two that received licenses.

“I didn’t get to see the application for these two companies that were approved,” he said. “I made that clear to staff — ‘you’re asking us to make a decision with incomplete information.’ I don’t know anything about these companies.”

City officials have touted the potential benefits of the businesses for a city that has long been riddled with — and criticized for — financial mismanagement.

“It means a new revenue stream to the city of Maywood and it means good paying jobs,” Councilman Sergio Calderon said. “If you look at the city of Maywood, you will notice that the commercial lots… are not deep enough to attract national chains. There’s no way we’re going to get a Target, there’s no way we’re going to get a Best Buy.”

In an email, the mayor wrote that those who oppose the ordinance “are not attuned or sympathetic to needs of our residents who are suffering from various afflictions,” and said that the marijuana business’ revenue would help the city recover from a dire budget shortfall.

In November, voters approved Proposition 64, a statewide initiative legalizing recreational use of pot for adults beginning in 2018. The measure permits cities to assess local taxes on marijuana businesses, but Maywood interim City Administrator Reuben Martinez said that the city has made no revenue projections or determined how it would collect any returns. Calls to the independent consulting group were not returned.

The city’s current ordinance seeks to regulate medical marijuana businesses, despite a June 28 news release touting the new ordinance and that fact the majority of Maywood voters approved Proposition 64.

“With voter-approved Proposition 64, local government has a duty and obligation to regulate this new business economy,” Medina said in the release. “It’s important that we attract the right kind of operators to ensure adherence to city codes and regulations, and to operate in a way that is responsible and respectful of the community.”

Before Maywood adopted its current policy, Marc O’Hara, founder of the political consulting firm Precision Politics who was then a director of a marijuana trade group, met with then-Mayor Oscar Magaña in 2014 to ask him to support overturning an ordinance then in effect that banned marijuana businesses.

O’Hara said he represented a client interested in starting a business in Maywood, and as an incentive, offered to help create a city-controlled nonprofit that would receive $150,000 a year from his client.

“I told him (repealing the ordinance) needs to go before the city council,” Magaña said. “There’s a process that needs to be followed.”

O’Hara acknowledged that the mayor seemed uncomfortable with his offer.

“After my meeting with Oscar, I met with my client and said, ‘this is too hard,’” O’Hara said.

News that the city had approved marijuana licenses surprised some residents, including Manuel Hernandez, who runs Maywood Mini Market across the street from Maywood L’Chaim.

“If they only come to buy the product and then leave there won’t be problems,” he said. “If it becomes a place where they’re hanging out to get the product, like at a bar, it can become a problem.”

Roberto Perez, 35, runs a shop that sells smoking equipment on Slauson Ave. He favors the marijuana ordinance, explaining that the closest dispensaries are several miles away.

“That would be nice,” he said. “A lot of the community has been asking for a dispensary or regular usage place… I haven’t inquired because I wasn’t aware that the city allowed it.”

At a July 12 city council meeting two weeks after the city announced its approval of both businesses, the city amended its latest ordinance, adding detailed guidelines for cultivation, manufacturing and commercial cannabis activity.

At that meeting, some expressed puzzlement over why guidelines were being added after the licenses had been approved.

“You guys are doing things reverse,” said resident Ricardo Lara.

Lara also drew attention to something that was missing from the city council’s website before the meeting: a copy of the proposed amended ordinance.

“It’s kind of hard for the public to do the public hearing when you don’t have any of this material available for us to speak on,” he said.

Twitter: @leilamillersays


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