Marijuana businesses are coming to SLO — and the city has mapped out possible locations

The San Luis Obispo City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to establish seven zones citywide where cannabis businesses could operate, including three potential locations for storefronts.

Some additional regulatory steps are needed before marijuana businesses can begin operating, including a November citywide election on a cannabis taxation measure.

Cannabis businesses are expected to open in the city in January 2019 at the earliest, according to city officials..

Michael Codron, the city’s community development director, said that the city’s maximum of three retail stores would most likely go in on the main thoroughfares of Higuera Street, Broad Street and Tank Farm Road.

Those areas also are the likeliest locations for all allowable cannabis activities, including manufacturing, distribution, testing, cultivation nurseries and more.

The zones where businesses can operate with city permitting approval are:

Mid-Higuera, Broad Street Corridor, Airport Area and Higuera Commercial Park (South Higuera Street): All types of allowable cannabis businesses are allowed within these zones.

Orcutt Road Area, Margarita Area (South of Prado Road) and Sacramento Drive — All types of cannabis businesses are allowed in these zones except for retail storefronts.

IMG_MARIJUANA_hands_bigs_2_1_5VBEFKV3_L316085708 (1)
San Luis Obispo approved its first two cannabis operating permits to two businesses Friday, and three more are going through the final stages of a vetting process.

The council asked city staff about the available commercial space in the zones and if those could be limited.

“We are using this process to steer business owners to (those areas),” Codron said. “If no properties available in those locations, we’ll come back to council to discuss further.”

Property owner Matt Quaglino of Quaglino Properties said that he has had many calls from prospective cannabis operators looking for commercial space, and the number of business facilities available to potential operators may be limited.

“The bigger challenge is not that there’s not enough room for the three (retail) storefronts, it’s going to be who’s going to get them,” Quaglino said. “If you have 40 applicants and three areas for these storefronts, that could be an issue.”

The council also will meet Oct. 2 to develop applications requirements and ranking criteria for cannabis businesses to obtain city permits.

Specific boundaries have been drawn to formulate the zones, and adopted in city planning maps, and legal cannabis operations must take place only within them.

The city’s buffering laws prohibit retail stores from being within 1,000 feet from any other retail store, school or park. They must be 600 feet from day care centers, and 300 feet from residences located within the overlay zone only.

Cannabis industry consultant, Sean Donahoe argued the cities boundaries are too tight.

“The black market is still extraordinarily thriving,” Donahoe said. “You’re overly tightening the number of possible permissible storefront properties.”

San Luis Obispo resident Keith Sweeney said that, as a father, he likes a more cautious approach to allowing storefronts.

“Let’s do it slowly and organically so we don’t make mistakes and so we don’t have to go back and repeal (the regulation),” Sweeney said. “Slowly wins the race.”

The city is allowing up to 70,000 square feet total of commercial indoor cultivation citywide.

“Optimistically, cannabis business activities would begin at the earliest in January 2019,” city staff wrote in a report. “However, it is expected to take some time for the city to establish its permitting and regulatory protocols, and for businesses to find appropriate proprieties and obtain the necessary permits to operate.”

Local news matters: We rely on readers like you more than ever before, and we currently offer free access to five stories a month. Support us further with a digital subscription to help ensure we can provide strong local journalism for many years to come. #ReadLocal

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune