Vista officials open to cannabis festivals, events in city

May 2, 2023 · San Diego Union Tribune

Five years after opposing cannabis dispensaries, Vista City Council members say they are open to having a festival promoting the product .

Several things have changed in the past few years. Voters went around the council and adopted a measure allowing dispensaries in 2018, new council members are more friendly to the idea, and fears that the pot businesses would attract crime appear to have been unfounded.

Also persuasive in changing opinions about the businesses: revenue from the city’s 11 dispensaries has been a windfall for Vista, which expects to receive $7 million from the shops this year, allowing the city to fund new programs.

Most recently, the City Councill approved a new safe-parking lot for homeless people largely with money from its excess cannabis revenue.

Also at the April 25 meeting, Councilmember Joe Green proposed a discussion about outdoor cannabis festivals and events.

Green told council members that the California Department/Bureau of Cannabis Control issues licenses for cannabis events, which can take place at county fairgrounds, district agricultural associations or any venue approved by the local jurisdiction, such as the City Council.

Application fees paid by dispensaries are $1,000 and license fees range from $3,000 to $20,000, depending on the number of events. The city also would issue a license for a temporary event, with the fee to be determined later by staff members.

Events can be up to four days long, and people are allowed to buy and consume cannabis on site. Only local dispensaries would participate in the festivals.

Green said local dispensary owners have told him they are interested in having local events, which could include a festival in a public park or a small event in a dispensary’s parking lot.

“We currently have Meading in the Garden in Alta Vista Gardens and we also have a Rhythm and Brews festival for all of our breweries,” Green said. “I see this as something similar to that.”

A large multi-day festival could generate revenue for local hotels and restaurants, he added.

Councilmember Corinna Contreras did not oppose local events but said she would like the city to first complete a social equity study on cannabis business. City Manager John Conley said the study should be complete by the end of the year.

Mayor John Franklin said he had opposed allowing dispensaries in the city, but acknowledges that it is something voters wanted, and he said he didn’t have a problem with allowing a festival.

“I’ve never been a consumer of the green product,” he said. “It’s never appealed to me, but I understand a lot of our community uses it lawfully and responsibility, including a lot of good friends of mine who I never would have thought were growing it in their garages.”

Franklin said he would like city staff to bring back a proposal to all promotional events to benefit local business owners. (Full Story)

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