Get ready, Grover Beach: Marijuana businesses will likely open by 2018

The Grover Beach City Council will allow medical marijuana dispensaries, nurseries, manufacturing facilities and laboratory testing centers.
The Grover Beach City Council will allow medical marijuana dispensaries, nurseries, manufacturing facilities and laboratory testing centers.

It’s official: You’ll likely see marijuana businesses popping up in Grover Beach next year, including up to two medical marijuana dispensaries, now that the city has finalized its commercial marijuana plans.

After a long road to deliberation, the City Council on Monday voted to allow commercial medical marijuana businesses — meaning dispensaries, nurseries, manufacturing facilities and laboratory testing centers — to open in designated industrial areas throughout town.

The decision makes the city the first to locally embrace the potentially lucrative medical marijuana industry, and it could set up Grover Beach as a center for cannabis industry in San Luis Obispo County.

“It’s a newly evolving industry that is up and coming in California,” City Manager Matt Bronson said Tuesday. “This really situates us a progressive coastal community that is moving in the right direction.”

You won’t see pot shops popping up overnight, however — the businesses still have to apply for and receive two different types of city permits, which they can’t even begin applying for until mid-June.

(The Monday vote doesn’t go into effect until 30 days after the decision, meaning around June 14.)

The businesses are required to apply for both a traditional land-use permit that is subject to approval by the Planning Commission and City Council, like other businesses that open in the city, as well as a special “cannabis business” permit that will require them to adhere to a stringent set of regulations addressing smell, safety and other marijuana-niche concerns.

Bronson said given the lengthy permitting process, he doesn’t expect actual medical cannabis businesses to open up in the city until early 2018.

The city will also limit the number of dispensaries — one of the most visible and high-profile types of business allowed — to two. That may not seem like a lot (the council originally pondered allowing four), but for a county that has not had a brick-and-mortar dispensary since 2007, it will still exponentially increase the availability of medical marijuana in the region.

Bronson confirmed that the city has already had inquiries by groups interested in opening “a range” of cannabis-related businesses in the city, including brick-and-mortar dispensaries.

For now, the businesses will deal strictly in medical marijuana, since the state’s legalization framework for selling recreational marijuana still hasn’t been finalized. After January 2018 — the state’s expected deadline for set up recreational licenses — that could change, paving the way for recreational marijuana businesses in Grover Beach.

Local cannabis advocacy groups applauded Grover Beach’s decision, though one advocate said she was puzzled by the council’s last-minute decision to decrease the number of allowed dispensaries.

“That was surprising,” SLO County Cannabis Businesses Association founder Marie Roth said Tuesday. “I think there were people who were anticipating those four dispensaries, cause I know those businesses were ready to move. They are ready to apply. So it looks like two of them are going to have to wait, which is interesting.”

Roth noted that although Grover Beach has made in-roads towards legalizing commercial cannabis businesses, there are other areas in the county that have yet to take up the gauntlet, or are still in the process of determining their stance.

“We still have a long way to go,” she said. “There’s definitely so much work to be done to get to a place where everyone is happy.”

Kaytlyn Leslie: 805-781-7928, @kaytyleslie