Grover Beach only just approved its first medical marijuana retailers earlier this year — all slated to open in the coming months — but the city is already looking at the next big step to bolster its burgeoning cannabis economy: recreational use.
During discussion of the city's existing cannabis policies on April 2, City Council members said they would tentatively be willing to update existing ordinances to allow retailers to sell marijuana for adult recreational use.
"It appears to me from the way the state is proceeding that the difference between medical and adult use is going to be gone in 18 months to two years," Councilman Jeff Lee said. "I think my perspective is adult use and medical are going to be synonymous within a very short order of time, so if we continue with only medical, we're hamstringing the other aspect of that."
Proposition 64, approved by 67 percent of voters in 2016, allows for adult recreational use of marijuana in California.
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The move could make Grover Beach the first city in San Luis Obispo County to open a recreational cannabis shop, depending on the timing.
San Luis Obispo is expected to consider allowing recreational marijuana stores at its May 1 City Council meeting, though the timeline of when its first shop would open is unclear because of permitting and other regulatory decisions yet to be made.
Meanwhile, Grover Beach would have open medical cannabis businesses positioned to pivot to recreational upon the council's decision. That would take several months, City Manager Matt Bronson said.
"I want to stay competitive in this market," Councilwoman Mariam Shah said. "I want people who have invested here to stay here. This seems like what the voters wanted."
To date, four medical cannabis retailer permits have been issued; Bronson said at least one of those is expected to open in April, with the other three opening in May and June.
Roughly nine other applications to open marijuana business — including manufacturing, distribution and cultivation outfits — are also expected in the coming months, he said. This means around 10 "canni-businesses" could be up and running in the city by this fall, Bronson said.
"Given the extent of the activity we've seen over the last year — the applications and the number of submissions — and what's happening on a regional basis with other cities getting into the cannabis industry and looking at medical and adult use, we believe it is a prudent opportunity to engage the council," Bronson said during his presentation April 2.
Recreational marijuana in Grover Beach isn't a guarantee.
The council took no official action April 2, instead directing city staff to return with an amendment on recreational marijuana at a future meeting.
"I'm confident that we can make the jump and do that in a safe way," Mayor John Shoals said. "I'm not about keeping up with the Jones', but I am certainly about us setting the standard and being the vanguard."