Recreational marijuana has been legal in California since 2016 – but Riverside is only just now on the cusp of allowing cannabis businesses for the first time ever.
As our Riverside cannabis lawyers can explain, city council voted 5-2 to green light 14 marijuana shop permits. The city has first passed a moratorium on cannabis companies in 2017 – with the exception of marijuana testing labs. This was despite the fact that Riverside voters supported Proposition 64 (which legalized recreational cannabis) by a 53 percent majority. A year later, the council agreed on an outright prohibition of commercial cannabis operations – except for labs.
Then two years ago, the city caught wind of a citizen-led effort to undercut the municipal ban on marijuana sales. Signatures to move the petition forward were never formally submitted, but the city did start weighing whether it should initiate its own permit program and regulatory framework. (Likely, they wanted to sidestep the reality that it was probably going be done whether they wanted it or not, and best to have some control over the final outcome.)
The city is actively studying how best to support permit seekers who have been disproportionately impacted by anti-cannabis legislation in the past. The initial outlay caps cannabis retailers at 14, but there’s no such limit for the number of labs, manufacturing companies, or distribution firms. Voters will need to consider whether they’re willing to accept taxation for the measure. A vote is expected in November 2024.
One councilmember against the initiative said he doesn’t believe marijuana sales in the city are an inevitability, worried over police and other public services burdening more duties, and lamented the fact that a gateway drug was going to be so easily accessible – particularly for young people. Just recently, the sheriff’s office arrested several older adult teens in Riverside for selling vape pens with concentrated cannabis to minors using a mobile delivery service.
But those who support legal cannabis say that a well-regulated market has proven to offset many of these concerns. Continue reading