The first cannabis storefronts in Culver City could be open as early as next year.

Twenty-three applicants submitted the necessary paperwork to begin the city process, which closed on Sept. 27. The applicants are vying for up to three retail storefronts.

“The city plans to approve up to three cannabis retail stores during the next nine to 12 months, and these would be the first permitted cannabis retail stores in Culver City’s history,” Jesse Mays, assistant to the city manager, said via email.

Culver City has not yet permitted any cannabis retail stores, including medicinal dispensaries, Mays said.

“If there are any, they are operating illegally,” Mays said. “I am not aware of any, but if the city learns of any unpermitted cannabis retail stores, we will shut them down.”

The city did not permit any cannabis stores until last year, when regulations were put in place, Mays said.

“We wanted to get regulations in effect before [recreational] cannabis became legal on Jan. 1,” he said. “We had a de facto ban prior to that — if there were no regulations, cannabis businesses could have been able to come into the city without our control.”

City staff is reviewing and scoring the applicants, and evaluation of the applicant’s business and security plans is among aspects of the review. The process also includes public meetings before permits are issued.

Mays said the cannabis regulations developed through a cannabis task force and approved by the city council last year limit the number to three retail storefront businesses.

The intent of limiting the number is to limit possible negative effects associated with cannabis retail storefronts, and to ensure that Culver City storefronts will not cannibalize sales from each other, Mays said. The number initially was suggested based on a ratio of one storefront to approximately 15,000 residents (a ratio suggested by the city's cannabis policy consultant at the time, HdL); after discussion the task force and council both thought the number was right for the city of approximately 39,000 people.

“Every city is dealing with this in a different way,” Mays said. “The state left it to each city to come up with regulations to suit their individual, unique community, and so what you see is each city is doing it a little bit differently from each other.”

Four cannabis stores opened in Long Beach in August for recreational marijuana sales. Long Beach, with a population of about 470,000, allows 32 dispensaries to operate, and they must have both medical and recreational licenses.

In Los Angeles, the Department of Cannabis Regulation has granted temporary approval to 169 locations, which are all Existing Medical Marijuana Dispensaries (EMMDs), Michelle Garakian, assistant executive director of the Department of Cannabis Regulation, said via email. The first temporary approval provided to an EMMD was on Jan. 12.

Garakian added that, to date, temporary approval has been granted for more than 1,000 activities across the 169 locations, which include recreational and medicinal-use activities.

Culver City said it could issue final permits for cannabis stores in the summer of 2019.

LA Weekly