Laguna Woods: A Senior City in Orange County May Welcome Cannabis Businesses

In a surprising turn of events, Laguna Woods, a city in Orange County known for its high percentage of senior citizens, is considering welcoming local cannabis shops. This move is a testament to the growing recognition of the medicinal and recreational benefits of marijuana among all age groups, including seniors.

Longtime Cannabis attorney Damian Nassiri explained to us that Laguna Woods is home to the highest percentage of senior citizens in Orange County. The city is now in discussions about allowing local cannabis shops to provide residents with easier access to medicinal and recreational marijuana. The city council is holding a public hearing on July 19 to gather more input from residents and city staff about potential regulations for these businesses.

At a preliminary discussion on June 21, council members discussed the potential look and feel of cannabis shops in the city. Most residents who publicly commented were in support of allowing cannabis storefronts. In November 2022, Laguna Woods residents passed Measure T with 61.03% of the vote, approving a tax rate on cannabis businesses. The council later set this tax rate at 10%, the maximum amount allowed under state law.

Laguna Woods is primarily a city of seniors, with 80% of the city’s residents aged 65 and older. The Laguna Woods Village, which makes up around 90% of the city, is a 55 and older independent community with more than 15,000 residents. Councilmember Shari Horne stated at the June 21 meeting, “Our residents report a better quality of life using cannabis. It’s another tool in the toolbox that benefits seniors.”

Many public speakers at the council meeting supported allowing cannabis shops in the city, primarily for medicinal purposes. Resident Maureen Mehler, who participated in a study conducted by the University of California, Irvine on the effects of medical marijuana, said, “The need for medical marijuana in the village is tremendous… I have spinal stenosis, and the change was immediate.” Mehler currently has to make an hour-long round trip to Santa Ana to access their cannabis shops.

Mary Sheets, another resident of Laguna Woods Village, shared her experience using cannabis after her husband had a heart attack and died in the middle of the night. She used marijuana to help her sleep while she was grieving. Another speaker, a cancer survivor, said cannabis was the only thing that kept the nausea away during chemo.

If approved, Laguna Woods would join Santa Ana, Stanton, and Costa Mesa — other cities that currently allow weed shops. While tax revenue is a significant motivator for most cities to allow cannabis storefront business licenses, the focus in Laguna Woods is primarily on the medicinal benefits for the aging population.

Other cities like Buena Park and Huntington Beach have considered bringing these businesses to the city but haven’t taken the final step. In contrast, Mission Viejo quickly shot down a similar proposal last year. If approved, the shops in Laguna Woods would need to be 600 feet from any drug rehab facilities, daycare centers, libraries, and schools. Staff identified six locations in the city that could house a cannabis storefront while following these guidelines.

The Cannabis Law Group, led by Damian Nassiri, a seasoned cannabis attorney, is closely following these developments. The firm assists clients seeking cannabis business licenses, including cannabis retail storefront, delivery, cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution licenses. They offer legal consultations in person in their Newport Beach office, over the phone, or via Zoom, depending on the client’s preference. For more information, call them at 949-375-4734 or visit their website.

The potential welcoming of cannabis businesses in Laguna Woods is a significant development, demonstrating the changing attitudes towards cannabis, especially among senior citizens. As the cannabis industry continues to evolve, staying informed and understanding the legal landscape is crucial for businesses and consumers alike. The Cannabis Law Group is committed to providing the necessary legal guidance in this dynamic industry.

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