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Commission approves Downtown zone change that could allow more cannabis dispensaries

The Long Beach Planning Commission on Thursday approved plans for a new cannabis dispensary in Downtown Long Beach—including a required zoning change that could pave the way for other cannabis businesses to locate in the area.

This week’s decision, however, must first be ratified by the City Council.

The 4,639-square-foot dispensary at 433 Pine Ave. requires special approval because it would operate out of the bottom level of a residential building, a co-location that isn’t currently permitted in the city’s Downtown zoning code.

If approved by the City Council, permitting the dispensary would lead to larger changes in the zoning code and Downtown plan that would allow other shops selling cannabis for recreational use in areas zoned for retail use in Downtown, and for them to be located in mixed-use commercial and residential buildings.

There are currently no licenses available for new dispensaries, but a feasibility study currently underway is looking into the possibility of offering additional licenses to disadvantaged entrepreneurs seeking to enter the legal cannabis industry.

The Downtown Business Alliance and the building’s homeowners association expressed its support for the dispensary.

“The ground floor retail space located at 433 Pine Avenue has long been vacant, and DLBA has diligently worked in the past with residents and property owners to activate the area,” DLBA President and CEO Kraig Kojian said in a letter to the commission. “An adult-use cannabis dispensary at that location would bring substantial foot traffic and promote economic vibrancy to the North Pine neighborhood.”

The Long Beach Collective Association, a local group representing business owners in the industry, however, submitted a letter to the City Council ahead of the Planning Commission meeting, stating its opposition to the change.

In the April 9 letter obtained by the Long Beach Business Journal, the association urged councilmembers to deny the application for approval submitted by Elliot Lewis, CEO of local cannabis company Catalyst.

“All stakeholders, including other cannabis business operators, should have the chance to provide input on any Zoning Code changes,” the association’s executive board and members wrote.

The approval of the dispensary, they argue, would “allow a single operator to take advantage of the City’s zoning rules” and “limit other operators’ ability to conduct business in downtown” because of distance requirements between cannabis retail locations.

One other dispensary is currently operating in the Downtown area, in a single-story, commercial use building.

Lewis is a former member of the association who was ousted in September, with the association citing failure to pay dues and “lobbying for city wide policy change for personal gain” as the reason for terminating his membership.

The Planning Commission unanimously approved the project in a 7-0 vote. It is yet to be determined when the item will be heard by the City Council.

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