Lead Story West Edition

Inglewood slams the door again on cannabis use

INGLEWOOD — Californians might want to pump the brakes a bit on this cannabis thing.

If you had thoughts of coming to the city of Inglewood to legally get your hands on some marijuana, you might want to re-think that.

In keeping in step with other local municipalities, the Inglewood City Council adopted a zoning code amendment recently to ban the commercial use of marijuana in the city.

“Inglewood is a city that just keeps getting better,” Mayor James T. Butts Jr. said in a released statement. “We are focused on development that will improve the city of champions for its residents, businesses and visitors. Commercial property is in high demand in Inglewood and we have our sights set on high-taste entertainment, pristine workplaces, desirable housing and opportunity for businesses to flourish in a safe and economically sustainable environment.”

When state voters approved Proposition 64 in November 2016, giving adults 21 and over the legal right to purchase marijuana, euphoria could be heard from the Bay Area up north to the surf here in the southern part of the state. Proposition 64 put California in a distinct category of a state approving and allowing recreational as well as medical usage of marijuana.

However, city governments have been slow or hesitant to embrace the new law, which went into effect Jan. 1. Just last month, Compton residents handily rejected two measures that would have established tax fees for marijuana sales, cultivation and distribution after the city had originally banned all commercial cannabis activities.

Compton is not alone in the area.

Of the 24 cities and municipalities that comprise the Westside/South Bay Region, only a couple have given the green light for commercialized use. Lynwood (marijuana cultivation, marijuana manufacturing), Malibu (medical marijuana dispensaries), Santa Monica (two medical marijuana dispensaries), and West Hollywood are the dissenters from other local government entities that have thus far rejected the marijuana business, according to the Canna Law Blog, which keeps track of all thing cannabis.

In Inglewood, just about anything cannabis is prohibited. That includes the sale, distribution, dispensation, commercialization and the cultivation of marijuana. The exception being that if you are a patient at a medical facility or are in hospice. But even with that, a person would have to have a special permit with approval by the city to be able to legally use marijuana.

But what is interesting to note is that this amendment to Inglewood’s Municipal Code does allow individuals 21 and over to possess or cultivate marijuana indoors for their personal use as long as it is in accordance with California state law. Inglewood residents had their say on the matter back in August 2017, when the city’s planning commission recommended the zoning code amendment at a public hearing.

Inglewood Mayor James Butts said allowing the legal sale of the drug in the city would just increase black market sales. (File photo)

Butts, through an email statement, laid down a whole laundry lists of mitigating factors that played into the city not allowing the commercialization and cultivation of marijuana use in Inglewood.

“Landlords charge high rents (50 percent to 100 percent more) to cannabis retailers compared to other business uses,” Butts said. “We know this from the illegal dispensaries that we have shut down in the city. It is estimated that the taxes levied on the legalized distribution system for cannabis could reach as high as 45 percent.

Added to that is the cost of leasing commercial space and paying employees could make the cost of legalized dispensaries as much as 80 percent to 100 percent more than the street product. That will result in two dynamics; 1) because this a cash business (federal government will not allow the dispensaries to use the banking system), underreporting of sales is not only tempting but necessary to compete with the street product and pay for the overhead of the “legal” dispensary.

“Second; my law enforcement experience causes me to opine that street dealers will take advantage of the free advertising of the legal dispensaries and set up street shops around the corner or in the alley. The legal dispensaries will likely have the opposite effect of driving out street dealers. Who is going to leave their street dealer to pay twice as much for the same product to a dispensary? Again, the tax benefit is unlikely to be what some surmise, with the need to under report to compete with street sellers and to pay for the overhead.

“Further, there is no economic incentive to invest in the appearance of the Cannabis leaseholds, likely populating the commercial landscape with run-down storefronts,” Butts said. “We need no precedent for the vote. It is articulated in the recreational use and sales law passed by the voters.”