Hermosa Beach Council opposes retail cannabis sales, majority of residents favor it

A city sponsored survey released Tuesday found Hermosa Beach residents favor retail cannabis sales in the city by a 10 percent margin. Source: FM3 Research

by Kevin Cody

The Hermosa Beach City Council expressed unanimous opposition at its Tuesday May 24 meeting, to a November ballot initiative that seeks to legalize retail cannabis sales in the city. 

“There’s been no community clamor for legalizing retail cannabis sales in the city. This initiative is an attempt at a hostile takeover of the city by outsiders. They are trying to shove something down our throats,” Councilman Raymond Jackson said, reflecting his colleagues’ sentiment.

But the council was divided on how to oppose the ballot measure.

The divide led to a two-hour discussion over drafting a cannabis tax measure for the November ballot, and drafting an ordinance to lift the ban on cannabis home delivery. 

The discussion followed the release of a city survey that showed residents favor “allowing cannabis businesses operating within the City of Hermosa Beach” by a 10 percent margin, 53 percent to 43 percent, with 5 percent responding “Don’t know.”  

Council members Justin Massey and Raymond Jackson favored a November ballot measure that would impose a cannabis tax if voters pass the retail sales measure. Absent passage of a specific cannabis tax, the only city revenue from cannabis sales would come from the local sales tax.

City staff and the Cannabis Advisory Committee recommended placing a cannabis tax measure on the November ballot.

Massey noted that if voters approve the retail sales measure but reject the tax measure, the earliest a cannabis tax could be put before the voters again would be November 2024.

Jackson seconded Massey’s motion.

“Not putting a tax on the ballot would be irresponsible. We need to plan for ‘what if [the retail initiative passes].’ And if the retail initiative fails, we’ll have the tax available for the future. It’s an arrow in our quiver,” Jackson said.

Catalyst Cannabis Co. CEO Elliott Lewis (right), and parent company co-founder, and attorney Damian A. Martin are spearheading efforts to legalize retail sales of cannabis in the three Beach Cities and El Segundo. Photo by Nathan Avila.

Council Member Stacey Armato opposed the cannabis tax motion.

“It’s too risky,” she said. “I can see the cannabis proponents’ campaign. ‘Council supports cannabis tax measure… They’ll say legalizing cannabis sales will benefit local non profits. I don’t want to lend support to their campaign,” Armato said.

Mayor Mike Detoy agreed with Armato.

“A council tax measure would suggest merit in the cannabis industry initiative. I don’t think the city should get in the cannabis business to make money. If we need money, we can make it other ways,” Detoy said.

Councilwoman Mary Campbell voted with Massey and Jackson to direct staff to draft a cannabis tax measure. But even with majority support,the prospects of a cannabis tax on the November ballot were put in doubt after City Attorney Michael Jennings told the council, “If there is a three to two council vote in favor of the tax, to put the measure on the ballot, someone will have to change their mind. A ballot tax measure requires a four to one council vote.”

Cannabis delivery ban plan 

During the cannabis tax discussion, Mayor Detoy mentioned talking to a neighbor when a marijuana dispensary vehicle pulled up with a package for the neighbor.

Detoy’s observation was followed by Massey making a motion to direct the city staff to draft an ordinance lifting the ban on cannabis home delivery.

“We are wasting resources by directing the police to enforce the delivery ban when there is no community opposition to the deliveries. And we’re putting residents in the position to be prosecuted. Criminalizing home delivery makes no sense,” Massey said.

Jackson agreed.

“It’s something we can do before the November election to stop the cannabis proponents from waving the access issue,” Jackson contended.

Armatto again expressed concern that the cannabis proponents would use lifting the delivery ban to suggest the council supports cannabis sales in the city.

“I’d be happy to discuss lifting the ban on home delivery the day after the November election,” she said. “I don’t know anyone who has been arrested in Hermosa Beach for receiving cannabis delivery,” she added.

Detoy agreed with Armatto. 

Cambell again provided a third vote for Massey’s motion, in support of directing staff to draft an ordinance to lift the delivery ban.

“Bringing back the delivery ordinance before the council doesn’t mean it will pass, but it will allow more public discussion,” Campbell said. ER

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