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Grover Beach approves marijuana business zone 

In its quest to be on the forefront of an expected industry boom, Grover Beach approved a designated zone for medical marijuana-related businesses.

The Grover Beach City Council voted unanimously to allow medicinal marijuana businesses to operate in a 70-acre industrial area in the southwest part of the city. The land use ordinance creates an overlay zone that would allow indoor cultivation, nurseries, manufacturing, testing laboratories, transportation, delivery, distribution, and storage businesses, as well as up to four retail dispensaries. The ordinances apply to medical marijuana businesses only.

A dedicated zone for such businesses represents the only one of its kind in SLO County, making the city one of the most marijuana-friendly municipalities in the area. The vote represents a promising step forward for people like Todd Mitchell, who said that his company, Medicinal Greens Inc., hoped to invest at least $4 million and obtain a permit to operate in the zone.

“You are very far ahead of many cities,” he told the council during its Feb. 6 meeting.

But not everyone was sold on the idea. The Coastal Dance and Music Academy is also located within the zone. The academy provides preforming arts classes for adults and children. Speaking to the council, owner Kathy Schultz raised concern about the concentration of marijuana businesses in the zone near the academy.

“We believe the creation of a cannabis zone is a direct threat to the future of our business, the safety of the patrons, and the quality of life of those living in or near the marijuana zone,” she said.

Shultz advocated for spreading out cannabis activity throughout the city, as opposed to keeping it all confined to a single area.

But other business owners said they welcomed the new and potentially lucrative industry to the area. Laurie Pippin who owns an automotive shop with her husband in the zone, said she “totally supported” the vision of the council and Mayor John Shoals.

“This is a huge opportunity for Grover Beach,” Pippin said. “We all drive the same roads, and everyone wants everything better, but the revenue is just not there.”

That revenue will likely come from a voter-approved marijuana tax. The council also approved the tax at its Feb. 6 meeting, which includes a 5 percent gross receipts tax on medical marijuana sales, a 10 percent gross receipts tax on future recreational marijuana sales, and a $25 per-square-foot tax on cultivation up to 5,000 square feet and $10 per additional square-foot. The tax could bring between $1 million and $2 million of additional revenue per year to the city.

While Grover Beach looked to open the doors to the marijuana industry, neighboring Pismo Beach moved forward with its efforts to restrict it. As part of its consent agenda, the Pismo Beach City Council formally approved a ban on several commercial marijuana activities, including outdoor cultivation, manufacturing, laboratory testing, labeling, storing, and wholesale distribution or retail of cannabis.

The recent votes have created a variety of marijuana-related ordinances within the Five Cities area, with Grover Beach, Pismo Beach, and Arroyo Grande all adopting differing ordinances.

Connie McLaughlin, CEO of nonprofit cooperative Sweet Green Apothecary, said Grover Beach’s ordinance was a “very good starting point,” but added that the patchwork of marijuana ordinances in South SLO County could make things difficult for the industry to continue to grow.

“It is very challenging. More than challenging,” she said. “I don’t know how people go forward with any real confidence.”

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