Costa Mesa, CA – The City Council of Costa Mesa is gearing up for a pivotal cannabis regulations meeting on March 19, 2024, where they will deliberate on proposed amendments to the city’s ordinances regarding cannabis businesses. These changes come in response to growing concerns from residents about the increasing number of cannabis storefronts and their impact on the community. You can find the agenda here.

In 2020, the residents of Costa Mesa voted in favor of Ballot Measure Q, which empowered the City Council to authorize cannabis retail storefronts and delivery services. Since the approval of this measure, the city has seen a significant uptick in cannabis-related businesses, with 22 Conditional Use Permits (CUPs) already granted for cannabis retail storefronts, along with several more for delivery services and manufacturing facilities.

The rapid growth of the cannabis industry in Costa Mesa has not been without its challenges. Community members have raised issues regarding the potential displacement of existing businesses and the clustering of cannabis storefronts in certain areas. To address these concerns, the City Council tasked the Planning Commission with exploring possible amendments to the city’s cannabis regulations and ordinances.

Cannabis Regulations Detailed

After thorough deliberation, the Planning Commission has put forth several recommendations aimed at striking a balance between supporting the cannabis industry and safeguarding the interests of the community. The key proposals include:

  1. Increased Separation from Youth Centers: The current minimum distance between cannabis storefronts and youth centers is 600 feet. The proposed amendment seeks to extend this to 1,000 feet, aligning it with other sensitive use separation requirements and enhancing the safety buffer around areas frequented by minors.
  2. Buffer Zone Around Residential Areas: A new 100-foot minimum separation between cannabis storefronts and residentially zoned properties is suggested to maintain the character of residential neighborhoods and reduce potential conflicts between residents and businesses.
  3. Preventing Overconcentration: To avoid the overconcentration of cannabis storefronts, the Planning Commission recommends a 500-foot minimum separation between storefronts. This measure is intended to ensure an even distribution of cannabis businesses across the city.
  4. Cap on Storefronts: The proposal includes setting a cap of 30 approved cannabis storefront CUPs. Once this limit is reached, the processing of additional applications would be suspended until the number of operational storefronts falls below 15. This cap aims to manage the growth of the industry and address concerns about market saturation.
  5. Signage Regulations: The amendments suggest allowing the use of the word “cannabis” on notices at storefront entrances, subject to specific design standards. This change is aimed at providing clear information to the public while maintaining aesthetic standards.
  6. Advertising Restrictions: The proposed changes also include stricter regulations on advertising and marketing materials. These materials should not encourage cannabis consumption by individuals under 21 years of age or depict the consumption of cannabis products, aligning with the state’s efforts to protect minors.

The City Council’s upcoming decision on these amendments is critical for the future of cannabis regulation in Costa Mesa. The proposed changes reflect a thoughtful approach to addressing the concerns of residents while supporting the growth of the cannabis industry in a responsible manner.

California has seen its fair share of cannabis related issues despite being arguably the most progressive state on the matter. With a litany of issues including large scale cannabis busts and other weed business and marketing concerns, this is another ominous sign of the times as Costa Mesa seeks to further hinder the growth of the cannabis industry.

As the meeting approaches, both cannabis business owners and community members are expected to voice their opinions on the proposed amendments. The outcome of this deliberation will have lasting implications for the balance between economic development and community well-being in Costa Mesa.