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City of La Mesa proposing new marijuana ordinance

Posted at 5:48 PM, Sep 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-23 20:48:59-04

La Mesa (KGTV)- It’s being called one of the most progressive marijuana ordinances in the county. The city of La Mesa plans to unveil its proposed rules this week. City leaders believe lifting limits is the key to defeating illegal pot shops.

If passed, the City of La Mesa would be the first in the county to put forth an ordinance without a hard cap on the number of dispensaries within city limits.

“We didn’t play that game,” says La Mesa City Council Member Bill Baber. “We’re basically saying they’re in our commercial areas, they have to be regulated, and the market itself will flush out how many get to exist.”

Councilmember Bill Baber says the proposed ordinance would weed out illegal pot shops by operating a path to run a legitimate business.

It’s a different approach than the one in Chula Vista. City leaders hope a limited number of legal dispensaries will drive customers away from illegal pot shops.

Currently, there is only one legally operating dispensary within La Mesa city limits.

“We’re proposing our dispensaries that have legally been selling medicinal marijuana to also move one step forward and to sell recreational. It’s the same product.”

Under the new laws, the dispensaries will be taxed. The money will go to the city’s general fund. It will help with putting more officers on the street and shutting down illegal operations. Councilman Baber says the city estimates the new ordinance will bring in nearly $2 million a year in city taxes.

The funds will also be used to clean up old run-down buildings that once housed illegal dispensaries.

“In 4 years our city attorney and our police have shut down 26 of these,” says Baber.

West La Mesa Resident, Erik Egelko, says the boarded-up businesses are now bringing in squatters. Behind an old, illegal pot shop on El Cajon Boulevard sits old furniture, trash and the rancid smell of urine.

“It just really turned into a slum,” says Egelko. “I see west la Mesa as having this incredible potential.”

The La Mesa City Council will be reviewing the ordinance during tomorrow’s city council meeting. There will be public comments for residents to weight in.