Costa Mesa Weighs Stricter Regulations on Cannabis Shops Amid Resident Concerns

The Southern California city of Costa Mesa is considering significant changes to its cannabis ordinance that could impose new restrictions on the location and number of dispensaries operating within its limits. In a marathon meeting this week, city council members debated a series of proposals aimed at addressing complaints from residents about the proliferation of marijuana retailers.

Among the key measures floated were establishing buffer zones requiring cannabis shops to be 250 feet away from residential areas and 1,000 feet from youth centers. This would grandfather in some existing businesses as “legal non-conforming” but prevent new dispensaries in those zones.

Officials also explored capping the total number of cannabis permits at just 10 overall, down from the current open-ended policy. While up to 35 applications already in the pipeline would still be processed, no new licenses would be issued once that cap is reached through attrition.

The proposed revisions follow Costa Mesa voters approving a 2020 measure to tax and regulate marijuana retailers, but specific operating rules have sparked neighborhood concerns over shop density and proximity to homes and schools.

“My kids ask me all the time, ‘What’s Nectar? What’s Mr. Nice Guys?’ It’s hard to explain what’s going on in the community,” one parent voiced at a prior council meeting.

Local businesses and homeowner groups have even threatened litigation if the city fails to rein in what they call an overconcentration of pot shops in certain commercial corridors.

As one of the first cities in tradition-bound Orange County to welcome cannabis businesses, Costa Mesa now grapples with striking the right regulatory balance between economics and community concerns.

While discussions remain ongoing, the city council appears poised to enact stricter zoning and licensing controls in response to the cannabis industry’s rapid expansion within its borders.


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