California is moving closer to legalizing marijuana in the state. With recreational pot on its way, it’s becoming more common for cities and towns across California to pause their cannabis bans as well. So what does that mean for Malibu? It means you’ll be able to smoke a joint at the beach!
The “redondo beach california” is a city that has been known for its cannabis-friendly culture. The city of redondo beach could be the first to allow recreational marijuana on their beaches.
A Long Beach dispensary chain is leading the charge to legalize marijuana in El Segundo, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Redondo Beach.
Residents of Beach City may soon be able to buy recreational and medical marijuana just by walking down the street.
At least, if a pair of aspiring marijuana entrepreneurs had their way.
El Segundo, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Redondo Beach are all attempting to convince their respective city councils to open the door to cannabis shops, or to put the subject to a vote next year.
The focus is on the initiative process, which allows California voters to propose legislation in their communities instead of depending on elected officials. All that is required is for a local to sponsor the initiative and produce a petition with sufficient signatures.
Petitions to authorize dispensaries are snaking their way through the coastal towns, each in a different state of development.
However, it’s unclear if these petitions reflect the wishes of a narrow interest group or a broader campaign to legalize cannabis.
Catalyst Cannabis Co., a burgeoning dispensary chain whose leaders have spent the previous four years lobbying for local ballot initiatives to allow recreational marijuana sales across Southern California, is mainly funding and driving the initiative process.
Elliot Lewis, the CEO of Catalyst, and Damian Martin, the company’s attorney and co-founder, claim to be representing the community’s will. Martin said that if they are successful in the seaside cities, they may attempt to expand into Torrance and Carson next.
Lewis recently said, “We’re for the people.”
However, detractors claim that as a private firm, Catalyst has a strong interest in promoting cannabis availability.
“Everything they say has to be taken with a grain of salt,” Redondo Beach Mayor Bill Brand remarked. “Whether or whether their proposal succeeds, they have a direct conflict of interest.”
Lewis and Martin, on the other hand, have said that they want to increase access regardless of whether or not they have a business license in the coastal communities.
Because of municipal legislation, an estimated two-thirds of California communities still lack dispensaries. Last week, a group of cannabis businesses told Gov. Gavin Newsom that the legal market was on the danger of collapsing, in part due to a lack of access.
In any case, five years after recreational marijuana was legalized in California, the coastal communities have become a hotspot in the decades-long battle to legitimate cannabis enterprises.
And the outcome of this war might very well be decided by voters.
How did we end up here?
California’s statewide legalization is also due to the ballot initiative process now underway in the coastal communities.
Proposition 215, which legalized medicinal marijuana, was approved by voters in 1996.
Cannabis proponents were successful in getting a statewide initiative to legalize recreational marijuana on the November 2016 ballot, two decades later.
Proposition 64, which gained 57 percent of the vote, made it legal for anyone over the age of 21 to purchase and consume cannabis for recreational reasons.
Local governments, on the other hand, were given the ability to utilize zoning laws to keep cannabis companies out if they imposed limitations or outright bans before Jan. 1, 2018.
Hermosa Beach was one of the first cities in the South Bay to outlaw marijuana, doing so in early 2017. Later that year, Manhattan and Redondo followed suit.
Lewis and Martin also opened the first Catalyst in Long Beach in 2017.
They didn’t stop there, however.
Where they could, Lewis and Martin extended the chain; where they couldn’t, they fought to reduce prohibitions.
Martin, for example, spearheaded a push to introduce cannabis to El Monte in 2019.
His petition garnered enough signatures to be presented to the City Council.
The council enacted the law as worded in December, claiming that bringing it to a referendum would be an unnecessary burden to taxpayers who had already shown their support for legal cannabis.
Last month, Catalyst established the first legal dispensary in El Monte.
Currently, the corporation has nine locations across Southern California. There might be more to come.
Lewis predicted that by 2022, “we should be one of the larger merchants in the state,” with up to 20 locations.
Some of them would, presumably, be along the shore.
How does the initiative work?
The inner workings of obtaining a new legislation from idea to ballot initiative might be perplexing to the untrained.
However, registering a proposed initiative and then collecting signatures from 10% of a city’s registered voters within 180 days of filing is critical.
If that occurs, the proposed legislation will be presented to the local municipal council.
The council has alternatives, but only a limited amount of time.
It has 10 days to enact the proposal into law, call an election to put the issue on the ballot, or buy time by asking staff to report on the proposed legislation’s possible implications.
If a council chooses the last option, it will have 10 days from the time the staff report is delivered to either approve the proposal or put it to a vote.
Some cities, such as El Monte, agree and pass legislation.
It’s questionable if seaside towns would agree to this.
Each local council seems to be putting its own twist on the wait-and-see strategy, while simultaneously expressing dissatisfaction with the effort.
“I’m dead set against it and hope it fails,” Manhattan Beach Councilwoman Suzanne Hadley said last week, explaining why she doesn’t want staff to research into the consequences of legal cannabis. “If we aren’t going to need the lifeboat, I don’t want to be out constructing it.”
Martin, for one, said he appreciates municipal governments for seeing his firm an intruder infringing on their territory.
Catalyst’s objective, he added, is to encourage municipalities to embrace the proposal.
“In order for this to become a law, we need a constructive and collaborative partnership,” Martin added.
However, the nature of ballot proposals requires communities to make a binary decision: legalize marijuana or let your citizens decide.
The people’s will – or special interests?
A petition must be started by a resident of the city in which it will circulate, which is one of the protections against special interests influencing the initiative system, at least locally.
During the summer, people of the coastal cities filed ballot initiative ideas.
Nonetheless, Catalyst and the petitioners both admit that each one was hand-picked by the cannabis corporation.
“I simply received a call from the CEO, Elliot Lewis, and he explained me what they were trying to achieve, what their purpose was with this entire effort,” said Sam Nicosia, a Redondo Beach local. “He asked whether I’d be interested in assisting them with it.”
Nicosia is a 20-year-old woman. When he’s in California, he’s a regular Catalyst client.
Nicosia is a Redondo resident who also attends Nashville University.
The first petitioner in Manhattan Beach, who was also in his early twenties, backed out of the campaign in August, a week after the planned measure was made public.
His successor, who is also 20, joined the team in October.
Meanwhile, the El Segundo petitioner could not be contacted for comment, and Martin, when asked for assistance on Friday, indicated he was having problems reaching her as well.
The petitioners seem to have little influence over these initiatives as well.
Lewis said in a recent interview that the money for canvassing and legal work comes from a nonprofit advocacy organization and a political action committee financed by Catalyst and another cannabis firm.
Nicosia, who signed the Redondo petition in July, said, “I’m not that interested with it.” “They send me everything that happens, so I’m quite aware of what’s going on, but Lewis and Martin make the majority of the choices.”
Martin defended the relationship in an interview on Friday, saying he and Lewis keep the proponents up to date on everything.
The only conditions, he added, are that they vote in the city for which they are promoting and that they are enthusiastic supporters of the projects.
“They can’t be paid,” Martin said, “and we don’t even offer them discounts in the Catalyst shops out of an excess of caution.”
The proponents, for their part, have their own motivations for supporting the attempts.
“Right now, there are no cannabis outlets in close vicinity to assist local folks,” said Colton Chacker, a 34-year-old restaurateur from Hermosa Beach.
“Better access for medicinal cannabis for those with physical and mental illnesses, as well as for adults over the age of 21 who prefer to exercise their right to use cannabis,” Chacker continued.
For Lewis and Martin, this is the most important aspect of their purpose.
“We’re going into communities where the majority of residents want (cannabis), but the local council has been hesitant to act,” Lewis said.
What comes next?
The issue of whether beach city inhabitants want cannabis is still open, and it won’t be answered until they vote on the proposed legislation next year.
This is because both sides’ statistics and anecdotal evidence are far from conclusive.
“Every poll we’ve conducted has come back with a proportion of individuals (as a percentage) in the high 60s to low 70s,” Lewis added. “So, we know it’s popular.”
Catalyst has done surveys “all across the state,” but none in the South Bay, according to Lewis.
And this is one of the things that irritates Brand.
The mayor of Redondo Beach, who has lung cancer, utilizes medical cannabis to help him cope with chemotherapy nausea.
Brand isn’t against dispensaries in Redondo Beach, but he is against special interests seeking to influence municipal regulations, he said.
And, according to Brand, he’s not certain that locals want local dispensaries.
“I haven’t had a lot of requests to open a cannabis business in Redondo Beach,” Brand said. “It hasn’t been a top concern for the residents I’ve spoken with or who I know are involved.”
But, with a population of over 67,000 individuals, it’s doubtful he’s spoken to everyone in Redondo Beach.
And the last time voters had a say on cannabis, in 2016, it received a lot of support.
According to the Los Angeles County registrar, Prop 64 won 61 percent support in El Segundo, 62 percent in Manhattan Beach, 65 percent in Redondo Beach — and 71 percent in Hermosa Beach.
These present attempts may provide voters with an opportunity to express their support for cannabis in their own localities, rather than merely in the state as a whole.
Signature verification is ongoing in Redondo Beach.
El Segundo’s cannabis petitioner is expected to submit signatures in the coming weeks, according to City Attorney Mark Hensley, and the council will likely adopt staff recommendations by March.
Meanwhile, signatures may not be returned until late winter or early spring at Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach.
In the meanwhile, they’re trying various ways.
Manhattan has opted to let the signing process to take its course.
The Hermosa Beach City Council, on the other hand, decided last week to create an advisory panel that might offer a ballot issue as an alternative. On both sides of the issue, this group will comprise different authorities and community people.
Meanwhile, Catalyst will continue to advocate for pro-cannabis policy in these communities, according to Lewis.
Lewis described the company’s plans as “the gold standard.”
He also dismissed the possibility of a conflict of interest.
Lewis said there’s no assurance his firm would acquire a business license if cannabis is legalized.
“I’ll feel wonderful” if the bills pass but “we don’t receive a license,” Lewis added. “We accomplished something historic,” says the narrator. “We went out of our way to help the folks.”
The final issue is whether voters share these sentiments.