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Why cities in California are slow to embrace cannabis businesses




A budtender at the Higher Path marijuana dispensary displays cannabis in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, California, December 27, 2017.
A budtender at the Higher Path marijuana dispensary displays cannabis in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, California, December 27, 2017.
ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

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It has been almost four months since California legalized the sale of recreational marijuana. But our state is not all in when it comes to permitting local pot shops. This month, Southern California News Group put together a database of cannabis ordinances throughout the state, comparing them with voting patterns for Prop. 64.

Brooke Staggs is reporter with the Orange County Register and one of the co-authors of the study. 

Many people seem to think it’s a free-for-all when it comes to cannabis in California now that recreational marijuana is legal. But that’s far from the case, as many cities are setting up strict rules on what types of cannabis businesses — if any — can open in their town.
Many people seem to think it’s a free-for-all when it comes to cannabis in California now that recreational marijuana is legal. But that’s far from the case, as many cities are setting up strict rules on what types of cannabis businesses — if any — can open in their town.
Southern California News Group

Interview Highlights

Overall research findings 

There are a lot of surprises here. Before the research, I would have guessed it was around 50 percent, but we found that it's actually fewer than a third of cities that allow any kind of cannabis businesses. That number is even smaller when it comes to recreational shops, fewer than one in seven cities allow them to open. It hasn't been a free-for-all since January.

Marijuana friendliness

We measured "marijuana friendliness" on the scale of 1 to 100 - 1 being most unfriendly and 100 being most friendly. Los Angeles, definitely, Maywood, pockets out in Riverside, Cathedral City, Dessert Hot Springs, all scored around 95. They allow all marijuana business types that are legal under state law. They also don't have restriction that allow people to grow at home. West Hollywood is one of the few cities in the state that are going to allow marijuana lounges, where people can come and consume in a licensed space. The only reason West Hollywood didn't score 100 is because they don't allow cultivation and manufacturing. 

Cities most resistant to cannabis business

More than two thirds of cities in California have blocked all businesses. Dozens of cities in Southern California scored zero on the marijuana friendliness scale. They not only block businesses, but also make people apply for a permit if they want to grow at home. Southgate, Pomona, San Juan Capistrano, Rancho Palos Verdes -- these cities want people to not only pay a fee, but also let police inspect their home if they wish to grow cannabis there. 

Inconsistency between Prop. 64 votes and city rules 

In some cities, even though residents voted very much in favor of Prop. 64, the city councils have not passed legislations for businesses in town. There's definitely still a stigma, there is concern of a federal crack down. There is not a lot of research from other areas on how it would affect teen use and driving under the influence. We are starting to get more of those numbers, and they are encouraging.  

Interview has been edited for clarity